Emerging Ukrainian: Elina Svitolina, will be chasing her 2nd clay-court title of the season in Rome. The continued absence of Serena Williams makes the tournament ultra competitive.

Svitolina will be seeking to answer critics who say that she doesn't really perform well in the bigger events.

Svitolina looking to warm up in style for the French Open 2017

An assured and inspiring 6-2, 6-4 victory over Elise Mertens, in the final of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup on clay, represented Svitolina's 3rd title of the season, but most importantly, her first on clay.

Svitolina is in good shape heading into this high-quality Rome tournament and, looking a little further forward to the French Open 2017 - her best chance at bagging that first Grand Slam.

Last week in Madrid, amongst the Bouchard v Sharapova furor - Svitolina suffered a blip going out in the first round to the tricky Chinese player: Saisai Zheng. The match arguably came a little too soon after the above mentioned Istanbul triumph for the Ukrainian to be able to fully re-focus. She will be keen to hit the ground running in Rome and get some serious match time in, in preparation for the French Open.

Alize Cornet or Sara Errani will battle for the right to face Svitolina - who starts her tournament from the 2nd round.

For what it's worth - Cornet showed enough in defeat against Bouchard in Madrid, to suggest that she should progress to the 2nd round. The Ukrainian should be focused enough to progress in Rome against the winner, though.

Svitolina on a quarter finals collision course with Karolina Pliskova

Czech Number 2 seed Karolina Pliskova is on course to meet the Ukrainian in the quarter-finals, should all go to plan.

Pliskova's form on clay this season has been patchy, to say the least. A disappointing drubbing at the hands of the lunging Latvian Sevastosa in Madrid in the 2nd round.

Elina has done well given all the recent distractions - to concentrate on the player in front of her and not, whether or not that player should be there. She will not be unduly worried about potential opponents, knowing that on her day she is more than a match for any opponent.

Elina the punter's pal

The potent Ukrainian is currently 16/1 with betting firm BETFRED for the Rome title. This looks like a good each way bet, providing you can excuse the above-mentioned first round exit in her last tournament.