Serena Williams is looking to claim her fifth Internazionali BNL d’Italia title, having won in 2002, 2013, 2014, and 2016. This will be her first appearance in the Rome field since her title run in 2016.
Serena Williams could face older sister and fellow former World No.1 Venus Williams in the second round, if they each win their first-round matches on Monday.
Venus Williams is also a former champion in Rome, having hoisted the trophy in 1999. Venus Williams defeated Martina Hingis in the semifinals and Mary Pierce in the final 20 years ago. She had also made the final on her debut appearance the year prior, in 1998, where she fell to Hingis.
Serena Williams and Rebecca Peterson faced off for the first and only time in the second round of the Miami Open this year. Williams won that match in three sets, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.
Elise Mertens and Venus Williams have met twice before, at back-to-back Grand Slam events in 2017. Williams won each of those matches in straight sets, at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Victoria Azarenka won her only prior encounter with Zhang Shuai in straight sets, at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open. Azarenka went on to win that title in Indian Wells, then followed up by winning the Miami Open title two weeks later to complete the “Sunshine Double.”
Former World No.1 Azarenka’s best showing in Rome was a runner-up performance in 2013, when she lost to Serena Williams in the final.
Garbiñe Muguruza has won both of her prior meetings with Zheng Saisai in straight sets, which both occurred this year, at the Australian Open and in Dubai. Former World No.1 Muguruza reached back-to-back Rome semifinals in 2016 and 2017.
Two other former Rome finalists are in action on Monday: 2014 finalist Sara Errani (against Viktoria Kuzmova) and 2016 finalist Madison Keys (who plays qualifier Polona Hercog).
17-year-old lucky loser Amanda Anisimova is the youngest player in the draw, slightly younger than 18-year-old wild card Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Venus Williams is the oldest player in the field, at 37 years of age.
All five main-draw wild cards are in action on Monday: Azarenka, Cocciaretto, Errani, Jasmine Paolini, and Venus Williams.