Second round of the WTA 1000 Internazionali BNL D'Italia has started today and it was the day of first on-court appearances for the seeded players from the bottom half of tournament's main draw. It has delivered the shocking settlements as well, because the 2nd and 3rd seed are already out from the contention.
Sofia Kenin has performed possibly the biggest sensation of the 2023 so far, eliminating Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets with a score 7-6(4) 6-2. This match was a clash between the past (2020) and current Australian Open champions, but from the perspective of recent results and form of both the players, barely anyone could expect, that the current world's number 134, who struggles in the process of coming back to form after long-term health issues, could be any threat for the player who is by far the most successful player of the season up to this point. The pre-match odds reflected this well, as Sabalenka was a banker favorite with an odd 1.08. All of this turned out to be irrelevant during the play though, as Kenin started the match well, being on the front foot from the start. The American broke Sabalenka in the opening game, but the Belarusian leveled the score in 8th game. Both players shared another breaks in 11th and 12th game, moving the set into tiebreak, where Kenin started great from the 4-0 lead and kept it till the end. It was still a long way to go, as Sabalenka was expected to play better in second set, but it was Kenin who reached out the level which panned out to be unbeatable for her favorized opponent. The American was playing a superb tennis, hitting some great winners, especially from the backhand side, and was really composed as well. She has won 4 games in a row since the score 2-2, giving Sabalenka just no chance to come back into this match, and did not face any single breakpoint in second set as well. It's the biggest win for Kenin since her comeback into competition and first victory over top 10 player since her victorious Australian Open campaign, almost 3.5 years ago. The American will face Anhelina Kalinina next, as the Ukrainian scored a routine win against Anna Blinkova, 6-2 6-2.
Thursday's action in Rome delivered not just one, but two shocking results, as Taylor Townsend has eliminated Jessica Pegula, winning 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the all-American clash between the qualifier and world's number 3. Pegula, who is publicly known as a super consistent player, was a huge pre-match favorite with an odd 1.13. Townsend works out her position in the WTA field since last year's April, when she came back into competition after 2.5 years break due to childbirth. The American is super successful in doubles, playing full-time in a pair with Leylah Fernandez this year and being ranked 6th in the doubles rankings, with 2 titles under the belt, won in Adelaide in January. Despite not making such a significant impact in singles competition, Townsend managed to overcome the qualies in Rome and approached the second round after defeating Ysaline Bonaventure in the opening's round three-setter. Pegula has started the match well as expected, moving into 2-0 lead after earning the early break on Townsend, but the world's number 168 clicked the gear since then and surprisingly performed the series of 6 games won in a row, to clinch the opening set. Townsend extended her streak to even 7 games, while breaking Pegula in the opening game of second set. The tournament's 3rd seed came out of this trouble though, by leveling the score in the following game and earning the decisive break in 6th game to force the decider. Once the match started almost from scratch again with Pegula still being a confident favorite to make it through, Townsend started the third set brilliantly, breaking Pegula to love in 2nd game and moving into 3-0 lead by giving away just one single point in first 3 games of the decisive set to her opponent. She has did not give Pegula any serious chances to come back into this match again, while playing a great and aggressive tennis, forcing a lot of trouble especially with great topspin forehands. Townsend did not face any single breakpoint in the decider, sealing possibly the best singles win in the career in a great style. Xiyu Wang will be the next opponent for the American, after defeating the 31th seed Irina Camelia Begu 6-4 7-5.
Another big upset was around the corner in the evening session, as Caroline Garcia was in a serious trouble in the match against Ana Bogdan. The 5th seed won the opening set 6-4 and gained a break in the opening game of second one, but the Romanian managed to fight back from being a set and break down to level the match by winning second set 6-3. The world's number 59 was on the front foot in the decider, moving into a break lead twice and having a chance to serve for the match within a score 5-4. Garcia survived it and turn the match over by breaking her opponent in the crucial 10th game and secured the advance into next round by winning two following games. 6-4 3-6 7-5 is the score which has denied the elimination of all the three top seeds from the draw's bottom half today.
Karolina Pliskova is another big name to face the upset today, as the 13th seed lost to Anna Bondar in straight sets, 6-7(5) 2-6. All the other favorites prevailed in their matches with straight set wins. Cori Gauff made it in the most impressive style, defeating Yulia Putintseva 6-0 6-1.