Emilia-Romagna Open: From late addition to the calendars to luring Serena Williams and Venus Williams

Serena Williams serving

The French Open’s decision to start one week later than planned would have likely created many issues for the WTA and ATP Tours, but the powers that be filled that gap with the Emilia-Romagna Open.

Traditionally there is only a week in between the Rome Masters and the start of Roland Garros, allowing several players seven days to rest and work on their game if they so wish.

However, the French Tennis Federation’s decision to start on the 30th May instead, due to Covid-19, means that there will now be two weeks in between the two events in 2021.

Whilst this may not affect some players who never intend to play another event in between the two, several would have been hoping to get some extra practice ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

Mixed doubles back on Roland Garros agenda while Parma fills void left in calendar after French Open delay

And, with an extra week to fill, both the WTA and ATP will be hosting one-off events this year in Parma, called the Emilia-Romagna Open.

The WTA event will start on the 16th May and take place for a week, with the men’s event taking place in the week directly ahead of Roland Garros.

Sport fans will know that this is not the first time that Emilia-Romagna name has been connected to sport mid-Covid-19.

In the 2020 Formula One season, the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix became the first race held at Imola since 2006 as the sport looked to minimise travel amid the pandemic. The race was also held again earlier this season.

A similar approach is likely to have been adopted here, allowing players to play another event without having to enter yet another country before heading to Paris.

Both the ATP and WTA events are only 250-level, though some stellar names are set to appear at both.

The women’s event looks particularly strong. Though Bianca Andreescu has been withdrawn, the event has received a major boost with wildcards handed to both Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

Major coup for Emilia-Romagna Open as Serena Williams changes plans and adds event to her schedule

Serena was in action for the first time since the Australian Open at the Italian Open last week, and decided she needed extra matches ahead of Roland Garros after losing to Nadia Podoroska in straight sets in the second round in Rome.

The 39-year-old will be looking to pick up some form ahead of another tilt at capturing a historic 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Venus has only played twice since the Australian Open, losing on both occasions, and will also be looking for some much needed match practice after withdrawing from Rome due to injury.

The Williams sisters are set to be joined by the likes of former US Open finalist Madison Keys, in-form Russians Veronika Kudermetova and Daria Kasatkina, Petra Martic, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff in Parma.

The men’s event is set to be headlined by Lorenzo Sonego, who will be hoping to carry home hopes once again after a stellar week at the Foro Italico.

Sonego was the only Italian, man or woman, to reach the last eight in Rome and did so after saving a match point against world No 4 Dominic Thiem in the third round.

He is set to be the top seed in Parma, with the likes of John Isner and Albert Ramos-Vinolas among the top four seeds.

Players in good form this season such as Reilly Opelka, Cameron Norrie and Lloyd Harris are also set to be in action.

With a prolonged wait to see who lifts the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and Coupe des Mousquetaires in Paris this spring, the Emilia-Romagna will hopefully prove to be the perfect warm-up event to whet our appetites.

Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.

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