Serena Williams saw her hopes of an extended run at the Emilia-Romagna Open come to an early end on Tuesday, the top seed succumbing to Katerina Siniakova in straight sets.

Williams had taken up a wildcard to play in the tournament following an early exit in Rome, where she was beaten by Nadia Podoroska in her opening contest in the clay-court swing.

Her campaign in Parma got off to a better start on Monday, a 6-3 6-2 result against WTA Tour debutant Lisa Pigato bringing a first triumph since losing in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in February.

However, the 23-time grand slam champion was unable to repel a determined Siniakova as she slipped out at the last-16 stage.

"It was a fantastic match and I played so well, I'm so happy that I could finish like that," Siniakova said after recording a 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 result.

"It was a pleasure to share the court with her.

"Now I will have the pressure because I defeated a great player, but I will enjoy it. I'm happy that I can continue and I will try to play my best in the next match."

Having failed to convert a set point opportunity, Williams hit back after losing serve with a break of her own to force a tie-break in the opener.

But Siniakova forced her way into a 5-3 lead before sealing it with a service winner, then quickly seized control of proceedings in a second set which was far less competitive.

Third seed Coco Gauff came through two tie-breaks to see off Kaia Kanepi, the American teenager having let slip a 5-1 lead in the second set before eventually sealing a 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (9-7) win.

Petra Martic had no such issues in her opening contest against Varvara Gracheva, the second seed easing through 6-4 6-2 after one hour and 21 minutes on court.

Serena Williams had no problems in her opening match at the Emilia-Romagna Open, but sister Venus was unable to join her in the last 16.

Top seed Serena eased to a 6-3 6-2 triumph over teenage qualifier Lisa Pigato in the highlight of Monday's action in the clay-court tournament, wrapping up the result in 68 minutes.

Pigato, 17, was making her debut in the main draw of a professional event having come through qualifying in Parma.

She enjoyed early success against the legendary Williams, too, claiming a break of serve in the opening game, but the 23-time grand slam champion soon got to grips with the task at hand.

"The first game, she played really good and I needed to adjust to get back," Serena said afterwards. "It was a bit of both, figuring out her game as well."

Next up for the American, who accepted a wildcard into the event after an early exit at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome last week, will be Katerina Siniakova, a 6-1 6-3 winner over Clara Tauson.

Venus, however, failed to make it beyond her opening outing, losing out to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova despite taking the opening set.

The Slovakian made it four wins in five meetings against the seven-time major champion, eventually prevailing 5-7 6-2 6-2 after two hours and 39 minutes on court.

Elsewhere, Sloane Stephens defeated fellow American Caty McNally in two sets, while seventh seed Sara Sorribes Tormo overcame Bernarda Pera 6-4 6-2.

There was also a win in straight sets for eighth seed Caroline Garcia, who got the better of Paula Ormaechea in a contest that saw both players serve impressively.

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley is confident tennis' season-opening grand slam will take place in Melbourne next year despite suggestions the tournament may be played overseas.

The federal government in Australia is sticking to predictions that international borders will be closed until at least the middle of 2022, leaving the feasibility of hosting the Australian Open shrouded in doubt.

It has even been suggested in a recent ABC report that alternative destinations are being explored, with Dubai and Doha said to be being considered as potential venues.

But Tiley, speaking to RSN, believes the timeline on opening up borders will be altered in time for the tournament, which traditionally takes place in January.

"We're talking about two weeks of quarantine and the borders remaining closed until the middle of next year, but I'm an optimist," Tiley said.

"I think that's going to be too long. I think it's going to be brought forward because we're going to get on top of it with the vaccines and how we manage the virus.

"If we don't, we're going to be extremely challenged."

This year's tournament was blighted by logistical issues, with several players forced into quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus on chartered flights into Australia, while just days before the event was due to begin more than 500 players and officials were made to isolate after a worker at an Australian Open quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19.

Novak Djokovic, the men's singles champion in Melbourne, was chief among those critical of the conditions players had to endure.

"The players have been travelling around the world in a bubble so there's no place in the world anymore where there's quarantine requirements for them and so they're used to certain conditions," Tiley added.

"We [in Australia] still have this 14-day requirement but of course the positive is we don't have any community transmission of the virus."

Amanda Anisimova raced into the second round at the Emilia-Romagna Open, where she could now face wildcard Venus Williams.

Venus and Serena Williams have each entered the event in Parma to prepare for the French Open, although Bianca Andreescu has been forced to withdraw.

Both Williams sisters have qualifiers in their openers at the start of next week, but Venus – absent in Rome with a knee injury – already knows tricky teenager Anisimova lies in wait beyond that.

Anisimova was a force in the 2019 clay-court season, then just 17 but winning the Copa Colsanitas – still her sole WTA Tour title – before beating Simona Halep at Roland Garros to reach the French Open semi-finals.

A return to the red dirt in 2020 yielded only three wins, though, two of them at the major before Halep gained revenge, and this season has been similarly testing.

But fifth seed Anisimova eased through her opener on Sunday, beating home hopeful Jasmine Paolini 6-2 6-1 in just shy of an hour.

Daria Kasatkina, the number four seed, could also face a grand slam winner in round two, with Sloane Stephens – the 2017 US Open champion – potentially her prize after seeing off Hsieh Su-wei in straight sets.

Qiang Wang had to come through three sets but ensured there were no upsets on day one as she defeated Misaki Doi 6-2 5-7 6-1.

Iga Swiatek sealed a place in the world's top 10 in style on Sunday, thrashing Karolina Pliskova without dropping a game in a stunning Internazionali BNL d'Italia final.

The reigning French Open champion was in ruthless form in the showpiece match, dismantling the ninth seed 6-0 6-0 in just 46 minutes on the Rome clay.

Pliskova simply had no answer as she suffered the first double-bagel loss in a WTA final since 2016, back when Anastasija Sevastova was on the receiving end against Simona Halep in Bucharest.

Swiatek showed no mercy to her opponent, losing just 13 points during a lopsided contest. She did face two break points in the third game of the second set, but quickly recovered to hold serve.

The victory secures a third career title for the teenager from Poland, who also triumphed in Adelaide earlier this year.

"I'm really really happy. I'm kind of overwhelmed because at the beginning of this tournament I wouldn't even dream of winning," Swiatek said in her on-court interview.

"It was super tough. We had to fight a lot of stuff.

"Obviously Karolina had a great run here and in previous years she's showing she's a really consistent player."

The new champion had needed to play twice on Saturday due to rain delays during the tournament, overcoming both Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff in straight sets to progress to the final.

Those results came after a last-16 scare against Barbora Krejcikova, Swiatek twice having to save match points before eventually prevailing in a deciding set.

"I'm really happy we've been able to play with fans because you gave me a lot," Swiatek, who is certain to be inside the top 10 when the updated rankings are released on Monday, said.

"Everything happened during this week. I've been playing two matches in a day, saving set points, saving match points, and you [the crowd] helped me a lot because it's tough.

"I want to thank people that are not here, my family and my cat, I am always thinking about her."

French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff on a hectic Saturday to set up a clash with Karolina Pliskova in the Internazionali d'Italia final.

The Polish teenager began her day with a 6-2 7-5 morning victory over fifth seed Svitolina, twice a winner of this tournament in Rome.

It was a match that was carried over from Friday's schedule after rain interrupted play, and Swiatek delivered a convincing performance.

That set up the semi-final clash with Gauff, the 17-year-old American who was competing at this stage of a WTA 1000 event for the first time, having been gifted her last-four place when Ash Barty abandoned their quarter-final match due to injury on Friday.

There was no sign of fatigue from Swiatek as the 19-year-old powered to a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory in a battle of the leading teenage stars of the women's game, who faced each for the first time in what could be a long rivalry.

Swiatek said: "I felt really good today. It's a big difference between my previous matches and today. I was able to beat Elina, so that shows that my game is here, I'm ready for anyone. It gave me a real confidence boost."

Quoted on the WTA website, the 15th seed added: "It's always hard to play against a young superstar, especially when I'm not used to that because I was always the youngest one.

"I just tried to have a high level of energy, even though it was my second match."

Between her two matches, Swiatek would have learned it was Pliskova waiting in the final, as the Czech ninth seed defeated Croatian Petra Martic 6-1 3-6 6-2 to keep up her remarkable record in the Italian capital.

Pliskova won the Rome title in 2019 and was runner-up to Simona Halep last year, but the 29-year-old former world number one has not been to a final since this event unusually took place in September of last year, having been delayed due to the pandemic.

Swiatek won as a major outsider at Roland Garros in October, defying her world ranking which at the time was a lowly 54th, and will face, in Pliskova, a player who has yet to win a grand slam title, a glaring absence amid an otherwise stellar career.

Against Gauff, Swiatek made 25 winners and just 16 unforced errors, a healthy ratio, and took three of her four break-point opportunities.

She sealed victory on a third match point, a big backhand forcing a stretching Gauff to chip beyond the baseline.

Gauff hit seven aces but also five double faults and had 33 winners and 32 unforced errors in the contest.

Ash Barty dramatically abandoned her Internazionali d'Italia quarter-final against Coco Gauff on Friday due to a right arm injury.

The world number one was leading 6-4 2-1 in Rome when, with her left thigh also heavily strapped, she pulled out of the match following talks with a trainer.

Barty's decision was precautionary as she will begin her French Open campaign in a little over two weeks' time, bidding to regain the title she won two years ago.

The scare came just hours after world number three Simona Halep announced she tore a calf muscle this week, putting the Romanian's Roland Garros prospects in some doubt.

Providing an update after the match with Gauff, which was interrupted by a rain delay, Australian Barty said: "The pain was becoming too severe so it was important to listen to my body and do the right thing knowing we have a slam."

Gauff, who had hit 12 winners to 15 unforced errors prior to her opponent's withdrawal, will now compete in her first career WTA 1000 semi-final.

Karolina Pliskova remained on course for a second Rome triumph in three years, after saving three match points to edge out Jelena Ostapenko.

The 2019 champion, who also finished runner-up last year, was 5-4 down in the final set when digging deep to hold off her 49th-ranked opponent.

The thrilling match went to a tie-break and Pliskova reeled off seven straight points after losing the opener to advance 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

"I'm just proud of how I fought," Pliskova said at her post-match news conference. "I'm happy that I stayed in there and fought until the end.

"We played last month, so I knew what was going to be happening. You can never get ready for some of the balls which she's playing."

Petra Martic stands between Pliskova and a place in the final for the third year running after the Croatian defeated Jessica Pegula 7-5 6-4.

Pegula eliminated Naomi Osaka earlier in the week but was second best against Martic, who progressed in one hour and 40 minutes.

Martic trailed 2-0 in the opening set before twice breaking Pegula to move 3-2 in front, but her opponent hit back to make it 5-5 in a tight contest.

However, Martic managed to break in the 11th game and served out the set, before showing her steeliness in the second to remain on course for a maiden WTA 1000 crown.  

Simona Halep revealed her Rome withdrawal this week was caused by a torn calf muscle, a blow that casts doubt on her prospects of playing the French Open.

Former world number one Halep had to be helped off court by coach Darren Cahill after she was injured while leading Angelique Kerber 6-1 3-3 in the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion on Friday announced the extent of her injury. Her misfortune comes with just over two weeks remaining until the clay-court grand slam at Roland Garros gets under way on May 30.

Wimbledon is the next major on the calendar after the Paris slam, with the All England Club tournament scheduled to start on June 28 in London.

"After an MRI here in Rome I can confirm that I have small tear high up in the left calf," Romanian Halep posted on her social media accounts.

"I will fly home today and begin recovery in the pool and gym on Monday.

"I'm staying positive and will do everything i can to speed up my return."

Halep, now 29 years old, won her first major title in Paris three years ago and went on to be crowned Wimbledon champion in 2019.

Ash Barty will meet Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia after an impressive defeat of Veronika Kudermetova.

The world number one claimed her 27th Tour-level win of this year, seeing off Kudermetova 6-3 6-3 in 81 minutes to reach the last eight in Rome for the first time.

Barty admitted it took some time to get used to the "wow factor" of centre court in the Italian capital, but she rarely looked under threat as she moved to 13-2 on clay in 2021.

The Australian would have faced Aryna Sabalenka for the third tournament in a row had it not been for a sterling performance from Gauff, who won 7-5 6-3 to secure a fourth quarter-final this year.

"Coco has shown that she loves to bring her best tennis against the players that challenge her the most," said Barty, who has never played against the American teenager. "She's played an exceptional tournament thus far. She's got the ability to take the game on. She's aggressive, she can run, she can trust her legs.

"I think it's going to be important for me to try to get the match back on my terms as often as possible. I know when they're in her patterns, the way she likes to play, she's extremely dangerous and very good at what she does. I think it's going to be a new challenge, a clean slate for both of us."

Matters were more difficult for reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who saved two match points before beating Barbora Krejcikova 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 in a contest lasting nearly three hours.

Powerful serving from Krejcikova and some errant shots from Swiatek gifted the Czech the chance to serve out a straight-sets win, but Swiatek held firm before taking the tie-break.

Swiatek persisted with a drop shot that seemed to cause difficulties for her and her opponent before Krejcikova's aim went awry at the end of the decider.

"I had fun when I played drop shots because today I felt them really good," said Swiatek, who will now face fifth seed Elina Svitolina after her 6-4 6-2 beating of Garbine Muguruza.

"I asked myself a question, what would annoy me in that situation? So, I tried to do that. So, yeah, sometimes it didn't look pretty, but I'm happy that I could do that. One year ago I wouldn't even come up with a solution like that. That's a progress."

Jessica Pegula followed up her shock win over Naomi Osaka by defeating Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets. She will now face Petra Martic, who came from a set down to defeat world number 44 Nadia Podoroska – conqueror of Serena Williams on Wednesday.

Ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Vera Zvonareva 7-5 6-3, will face Jelena Ostapenko following her three-set defeat of Angelique Kerber.

Serena Williams will play in the Emilia-Romagna Open next week following her early exit in Rome, Patrick Mouratoglou has confirmed.

The legendary American was beaten 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 by Nadia Podoroska in the 1,000th match of her incredible career at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Wednesday.

Williams, who was given a bye into the second round at Foro Italico, was playing her first match since losing to Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals of the Australia Open three months ago.

With the French Open getting under way on May 30, Williams has taken a wildcard to get more time on clay under her belt in Parma.

Mouratoglou, the former world number one's coach, tweeted: "Change of plans: Serena hasn't been competing for a while, and we want to get as many matches under our belt as possible before Roland-Garros - so we're adding the Emilia-Romagna Open to our schedule.

"We'll be back in action next week."

Williams will head to Paris for the second major of the year in her latest attempt at matching Margaret Court's record tally of 24 grand slam singles titles.

Simona Halep suffered a worrying leg injury just over two weeks out from the French Open at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka crashed out.

Halep, the 2018 French Open champion, had dominated the first set against Angelique Kerber, winning 6-1, but came off the court with an apparent calf problem with the scores level at 3-3 in the second.

She received treatment but an emotional Halep was forced to withdraw from the clash, the defending champion handing victory to Kerber.

The Romanian was then helped from the grandstand court, leaving the area with strapping on her leg and a heavy limp, raising doubts about her ability to compete at Roland Garros, where she would likely be one of the favourites.

Earlier Williams made her first appearance on the tour since February, losing the 1,000th match of her glittering career to Nadia Podoroska, who reached the semi-finals in Paris last year.

Podoroska prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 7-5, with 23-time grand slam champion Williams not too downhearted by a defeat to an accomplished clay-court player.

"It's tough to have a first match on clay. It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better," Williams said. 

"She has a good game, for sure, obviously. She's very consistent. Overall, it was good for me to play such a clay-court player on clay today, but it's a little frustrating. But it's all right. It is what it is.

"I have been training for months, but it feels definitely different on clay to make that last adjustment. Just filling out the game, finding the rhythm. Even sliding and confidence with that, with movement. That's always like a little struggle in the first two matches, and then I'm raring to go."

Osaka has yet to find her footing on clay and the reigning Australian Open champion came up short in the second round as she suffered a surprise loss to Jessica Pegula.

Pegula said after her 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 win: "I know she doesn't love clay, so I just tried to be the clay court player out there today, and it worked just good enough."

World number one Ashleigh Barty had no such difficulties in her 6-4 6-1 over Yaroslava Shvedova, but fourth seed Sofia Kenin was a shock loser to Barbora Krejcikova.

Petra Kvitova was beaten in three sets by Vera Zvonareva but Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka, last year's French Open champion Iga Swiatek, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza all progressed while teenager Coco Gauff knocked out 17th seed Maria Sakkari.

Garbine Muguruza eased into the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Tuesday thanks to a comfortable victory over lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig, though Belinda Bencic was the biggest casualty on a rain-interrupted day.

Spaniard Muguruza was due to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova until the Russian withdrew due to an abdominal issue, giving Tig a reprieve and the chance of an upset.

But Muguruza won all but three games in a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 victory that required little more than an hour on court as the former world number one went to 22-6 for the season.

Conditions were not great as drizzle persisted for much of the match, but Muguruza was grateful to progress after a generally testing day.

"It was a weird day," the 12th seed said afterwards. "I woke up [and the weather was] sunny, had an opponent. Then it turned out I had another opponent and it was raining the whole match. We had a little bit of everything!

"But, Rome, it's such a familiar tournament. I played here so many times, I've had nice matches. I love this clay, the red clay. It's familiar to me. I'm just looking forward to getting as many matches as possible."

Bencic will not be joining her in the next round, as she became the highest seed to be eliminated on the day in a 6-3 6-4 defeat to Kristina Mladenovic.

The two played each other under two weeks ago in the first round of the Madrid Open, with Bencic victorious, but Mladenovic got her revenge as she capitalised on her opponent's seven double faults.

Like Tig, Sloane Stephens was also competing as a lucky loser as she came up against compatriot Madison Keys, though the outcome was no different.

Keys claimed only her second win in six meetings with Stephens but had to come from behind as she eventually clinched it 4-6 6-2 7-5 after two-and-a-half hours on court to set up a clash with 15th seed Iga Swiatek.

Elise Mertens, the 14th seed, was also dumped out of the competition, losing out 4-6 6-2 6-3 to Veronika Kudermetova, whom she had beaten in straight sets in their three WTA Tour contests before this one.

Veteran Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova, ranked 665 in the world, awaits top seed Ashleigh Barty after the 33-year-old showed character to fight back and beat Martina Trevisan 0-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6), while Nadia Podoroska set up a second-round clash with Serena Williams after seeing off Laura Siegemund 2-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-1.

Petra Kvitova recovered from a poor start to beat Magda Linette in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Monday.

Linette took just 31 minutes to win the first set in Rome, but world number 10 Kvitova responded superbly to win 1-6 6-0 6-2.

Two-time grand slam champion Kvitova racked up 16 unforced errors in the first set, yet rallied like the great competitor she has proved to be for so long to ensure she will face Vera Zvonareva - conqueror of Christina McHale - in the second round.

The 11th seed from the Czech Republic said: "The first set I started very badly. I was missing almost everything. On the court... [the ball] was bouncing everywhere as well. A little bit windy. I just had to get used to probably everything.

"The beginning of the second set when finally I held my serve and broke her serve, I think since then it was much, much better."

French Open champion Iga Swiatek advanced when Alison Riske retired at 5-4 down in the first set due to a recurrence of a left foot injury.

Swiatek, who will take on Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys in the second round, made 18 unforced errors but had won four games in a row from 4-1 down when the American was unable to continue. 

Coco Gauff battled past Yulia Putintseva 7-5 4-6 6-4 to set up a meeting with 17th seed Maria Sakkari  - who fended off qualifier Polona Hercog 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-2.

Amanda Anisimova will do battle with Elina Svitolina, a winner of this tournament twice, after defeating Wang Qiang 7-5 6-3. Jessie Pegula, Jennifer Brady and Petra Martic were among the other winners on day one.

Viktorija Golubic won the L'Open 35 de Saint-Malo on Sunday after a straight-sets win over Jasmine Paolini.

A finalist in Lyon and Monterrey in March, the world number 84 claimed a second career WTA125K singles title after a 6-1 6-3 triumph in 67 minutes.

Golubic held her nerve at the key moments in a close contest, landing 75 per cent of first serves and saving five of six break points.

Paolini threatened to make more of a contest in the second set after finally breaking, but the Italian dropped serve with her very next game and saw momentum slip away.

It was Golubic's first title since defeating Jennifer Brady at this level at Indian Wells two years ago.

Viktorija Golubic will take on Jasmine Paolini in the L'Open 35 de Saint-Malo final after both players won their semi-final contests in straight sets on Saturday.

Italian Paolini won 6-3 6-1 against Varvara Gracheva, who was unable to follow up her impressive quarter-final triumph over second seed Rebecca Peterson.

Golubic meanwhile, is the highest-ranked player remaining and the fifth seed eventually prevailed against Harmony Tan.

In a tough contest, Golubic won 7-6 (7-4) 6-3, continuing a strong run of form that also saw her reach WTA finals in Lyon and Monterrey last month.

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