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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday May 6, 2024

Same suspects, different venue – and different conditions.

The women’s singles draw was released at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, with top-seeded Iga Swiatek and defending champion Elena Rybakina (the No.4 seed) drawn into different halves.

Tennis Express

Rybakina is in the lower half with second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, and the pair could meet in the semifinals (if the seeds hold) in what would be a reprisal of their three-set epic last week in Madrid, won by Sabalenka in a third-set tiebreak.

2021 and 2022 champion Swiatek, who will bid to become the sixth woman to win three Rome titles, will race either Caroline Dolehide or a qualifier in her first match. The Pole, who now owns a 71-10 lifetime record on clay after claiming her 20th career title in Madrid, could face No.31 seed Sloane Stephens, Yulia Putintseva or Martina Trevisan in the third round; in the fourth round, 17th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova or 14th-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova could be waiting.

There are plenty of dangerous unseeded players in the draw, including three who are on the comeback trail from maternity leave – Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and two-time champion Elena Svitolina.

Osaka, in the top half, faces France’s Clara Burel in first round action, with the winner facing No.19 seed Marta Kostyuk.

36-year-old Kerber gets American Lauren Davis, with the winner getting No.17 seed Kudermetova next.

Svitolina, seeded 16, will face either Sara Errani or Amanda Anisimova in the second round after a bye.

If the seeds hold the quarterfinals in Rome will shape up as follows:

[1] Swiatek vs [6] Vondrousova
[3] Gauff vs [7] Zheng
[4] Rybakina v [5] Sakkari
[2] Sabalenka v [8] Jabeur

Sabalenka has only been past the third round once – a semifinal run in 2022 – and will open against wither Wang Yafan or a qualifier. The Belarusian was edged by Iga Swiatek in a three hour and 11-minute final in Madrid on Saturday.

Rybakina is slated to face either Irina-Camelia Begu or a qualifier in her second round match, after a bye. She is in a quarter that also includes Danielle Collins, Victoria Azarenka and Jasmine Paolini.