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Victoria Azarenka, Fabio Fognini and Novak Djokovic are just three of the big name players who will take to the courts on Monday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Azarenka faces Naomi Osaka in what is set to be an intriguing clash on Court Centrale. The pair, who have met just once before at the 2016 Australian Open where the Belarusian won 61 61, are scheduled as the second match of the day with the winner to face world No. 1 Simona Halep.
Former two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka reached the Rome final in 2013, defeating Sara Errani in the semifinals before losing to Serena Williams. The 28-year-old has played at just three tournaments so far in 2018 due to a custody battle regarding her son, and will expect a tough match against 20-year-old Osaka, who won Indian Wells in March.
The big hitter upset four top players including Maria Sharapova — a three-time Rome champion — former world No. 2 Aga Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Halep en route to the title in California but hasn’t played during the past couple weeks due to an abdominal injury she sustained in Stuttgart.
Opening proceedings on the main court will be Kei Nishikori, who reached the final at the Monte Carlo Masters last month, and Feliciano Lopez, while four-time champion Novak Djokovic’s first round clash against Alexandr Dolgopolov closes the afternoon session.
There will be another enticing clash in the evening when crowd favourite Fabio Fognini, who upset defending champion Andy Murray at the Foro Italico last year, takes on French showman Gael Monfils, before 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens meets Barbora Strycova in the last match of the day.
Other players opening their campaigns on Monday include Johanna Konta, who faces Magdalena Rybarikova in the first match on Court Pietrangeli, and No. 9 seed David Goffin, who will meet Leonardo Mayer on Next Gen Arena.
The fans will have plenty to cheer about with six Italians in singles action. As well as Fognini, former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci play their first round matches and there is sure to be added interest in Vinci’s clash with lucky loser Aleksandra Krunic as the US Open finalist is set to retire at the Foro Italico this week. Could Krunic be the one to bring the curtain down on Vinci’s career?
Play gets underway at the Foro Italico at 11am.