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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 8, 2021

Serena Williams

Serena Williams will make her long awaited return to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome this week. Let's look at the draw.

Serena Williams will make her long awaited return to the WTA Tour with an appearance at the Internazionalizi BNL d’Italia draw this week. The American legend will ramp up her pursuit of a 24th major title and join the rest of a formidable cast of characters at Rome. Let’s highlight some key elements of the draw.

Tennis Express

Serena’s Back – her path

Williams is in the bottom quarter and could potentially face Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals. However, it’s a long road to get there, for both. Williams is slated to face either Nadia Podoroska, a semifinal at last year’s Roland Garros, or a qualifier, in her second round match (after a bye). She could face Petra Martic, Shelby Rogers, Belinda Bencic or a qualifier in the third round.

Osaka, seeded No.2, and coming off a second-round loss to Karolina Muchova at Madrid, will face either Jessica Pegula or Daria Kasatkina in her second round match, and could potentially face American Jennifer Brady in the third round.

View the full draw here:

Bianca Andreescu's Late Withdrawal Puts Pliskova Halep's Quarter

Bianca Andreescu, who missed Madrid due to a positive Covid-19 test, will not return to the fray in Rome for her first appearance on clay since Roland-Garros 2019. That's because she was warned by the Italian government that she might need to go into isolation if she flew to Italy.

Karolina Pliskova takes Andreescu's spot in the draw, and could face Jil Teichmann or Anastasija Sevastova in her second round (after bye) and potentially Petra Kvitova in the third round. If the seeds hold we could end up with Pliskova vs. Simona Halep in the last eight.

Halep, the defending champ, could face Angelique Kerber in her first match after a bye, and potentially square off with Marketa Vondrousova, Johanna Konta or Jelena Ostapenko in the third round.

Here are the potential quarterfinals if the seeds hold:

Ash Barty v Aryna Sabalenka
Sofia Kenin v Elina Svitolina
Karolina Plliskova v Simona Halep
Serena Williams v Naomi Osaka

First round popcorn

Here are some notable first-rounders:

Coco Gauff-Yulia Putintseva
Elise Mertens- Veronika Kudermetova
Garbiñe Muguruza-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Johanna Konta-Jelena Ostapenko
Daria Kasatkina-Jessica Pegula
Karolina Muchova v Madison Keys


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