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Rome Masters 2019 draw preview and predictions: Nadal, Thiem could clash in Rome quarterfinals while Djokovic headlines packed quarter

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 11 May 2019
  • Roger Federer returns to the Rome Masters in 2019 and lands in Rafael Nadal's half
  • Novak Djokovic could face Daniil Medvedev, Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka
  • Rome Masters 2019 draw analysis and predictions
Rafael Nadal (PA Sport)

Defending champion Rafael Nadal could clash with challenger Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters.


We break down the draw for the 2019 Madrid Masters, analyse the favourites’ chances and predict the semifinalists, finalists and champions at the fifth Masters 1000 Series event of the season, played at Rome’s Foro Italico from 12-19 May.

Roger Federer has confirmed that he will be playing Rome after his solid run in Madrid, while Novak Djokovic headlines a packed quarter including Juan Martin del Potro, Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka, and defending champion Alexander Zverev might just have been given a boost by the draw, if he can take advantage.

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Juan Martin del Potro (7) (15-3)

Djokovic (PA Sport)
This is the same quarterfinal that was projected in the top quarter of the Madrid Masters draw but did not materialize, with Juan Martin del Potro – playing just his second tournament since fracturing his kneecap in Shanghai last October – bowing out in his first match to Laslo Djere. Del Potro clearly needs matches but he won’t get too many of them in Rome because he’ll open his campaign against David Goffin or Stan Wawrinka, who’s been showing some flashes of form recently and was a quarterfinalist in Madrid before being trounced by Nadal.

Wawrinka looks likely to meet Daniil Medvedev, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semifinalist and Barcelona Open runner-up, in the third round, assuming Nick Kyrgios doesn’t pull off an unlikely win in the first round.

Djokovic is in the Madrid Masters semifinals to face Dominic Thiem at the time of writing and hasn’t really been tested this week, having received a quarterfinal walkover from Marin Cilic, so it’s difficult to assess his form. He could have to open against Denis Shapovalov with either Marco Cecchinato – who beat him at the French Open last year – or Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat him in Indian Wells, in the third round. It’s not an easy draw if Djokovic is still feeling vulnerable, and potential quarterfinal opponent Medvedev beat him in Monte Carlo, but Djokovic plays well in Rome where he’s made the final eight of the past 11 years and I think he’d come in to a quarterfinal with the maddening Medvedev full of ideas and motivation.

Semifinalist: Djokovic (5/2 @ Ladbrokes to win the tournament)

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Alexander Zverev (4) vs Kei Nishikori (6) (2-1)

Nishikori (PA Sport)
Defending points hasn’t been Alexander Zverev’s strong suit so far in 2019, and he has already failed to defend his Munich Open and Madrid Masters titles, beaten at the former by Cristian Garin and at the latter by Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Zverev has been in something of a slump (he was due one) and although he did win back-to-back matches in Madrid, those wins weren’t overly special. There are a couple of very tricky early-round matches for Zverev in Rome, where he will be trying to make the final for the third straight year. He opens against Budapest champion and Munich runner-up Matteo Berrettini, or the out-of-form Luca Pouille; Berrettini has been playing great tennis on clay so far this year. Gael Monfils, who pushed Federer to a third set in Madrid, could await in the third round.

Kei Nishikori also has some tricky early opponents, starting with another in-form clay-courter, Sao Paul champion Guido Pella, in the second round. In the third he is projected to face Marin Cilic, who’s really struggling this season and was cut down by food poisoning when he did manage to make the quarterfinals in Madrid, but there’s also Grigor Dimitrov or the big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff. I haven’t found Nishikori’s recent tennis inspiring, but if he gets past Pella I’m not sure who’s going to take him out; Zverev lost their only previous meeting on clay, and the German looks at definite risk of an early exit. Nishikori has a decent enough record in Rome, making the quarterfinals or better on three of his five appearances.

Semifinalist: Nishikori (33/1 @ Ladbrokes to win the tournament)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas (8) vs Roger Federer (3) (1-1)

Roger Federer (PA Sport)
We didn’t know what to expect from Roger Federer last week as he played his first clay-court event for three years in Madrid, but it turns out that the 37-year-old is still pretty lethal on the dirt, beating Gael Monfils to reach the quarterfinals and holding two match points against Dominic Thiem before succumbing in three. 

Conditions in Rome should be much less suited to the kind of ultra-aggressive approach Federer employed in Madrid, but that’s presumably why he’s decided to play it (Rome wasn’t on his original schedule) as preparation for the French Open. That all suggests Federer is feeling better on clay than he thought he would.

And this is a nice draw. Federer opens against Frances Tiafoe or Joao Sousa, and while he could meet Borna Coric in the third round – and Coric beat him twice last year – Coric went out early in his last two events and might well be upset by Felix Auger-Aliassime (who beat him in Miami) in the first round. 

At the top of this section, Tsitsipas will be playing for his third week in a row after winning Estoril and making the semifinals in Madrid (at the time of writing) and it seems a bit much to expect him to go deep in Rome, too. He has a decent draw to the third round, but there he looks likely to face the winner of a first-round duel between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fabio Fognini. The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion hasn’t had the greatest success in Rome in the past, finally making the quarterfinals for the first time in 2018, but he played well in Madrid before coming up against Thiem and after getting past Tsonga could well set up a quarterfinal clash with Federer (or could equally crash out at the hands of Radu Albot). It would be their first meeting on clay, with Federer having won all three previous meetings.

Semifinalist: Federer (16/1 @ Ladbrokes to win the tournament)

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem (5) vs Rafael Nadal (2) (4-8)

Thiem (PA Sport)
A quarterfinal clash between Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal, not long after Thiem beat Nadal in the semifinals of Barcelona and just over a week before the French Open begins; that would be something to savour. (Both men are in the Madrid semifinals at the time of writing and could meet in the final.)

Nadal played by far his best match of the clay-court season (possibly the season as a whole) to crush Stan Wawrinka in the Madrid quarterfinals, and if he can sustain that form and bring it to Rome, I don’t think there’s the faintest question of him not being in the quarterfinals at least; the out-of-form Nikoloz Basilashvili, Jeremy Chardy in the second round and Marton Fucsovics are not intimidating potential opponents, not that the King of Clay – and eight-time Rome champion – needs any help from the draw.

Thiem on the other hand looks likely to open against Fernando Verdasco, always ready and willing to take out a top seed or at least fight them to a standstill, and could meet Karen Khachanov (who’s out of form) or Roberto Bautista Agut (who isn’t, although he doesn’t love clay) in the third round. Not having seen how the Madrid semifinals and final will play out, you have to favour Nadal on the basis of an easier draw to the quarterfinals and a better record at the tournament and, well, general utter supremacy on this surface.

Semifinalist: Nadal (11/8 @ Ladbrokes to win the tournament)

Semifinals: 
Djokovic d. Nishikori
Nadal d. Federer

Final: 
Nadal d. Djokovic

Rome Masters tennis is live from 12-19 May 2019

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Rome Masters 2019 draw preview and predictions: Nadal, Thiem could clash in Rome quarterfinals while Djokovic headlines packed quarter

Rome Masters 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: Novak Djokovic finds himself in the same quarter as Juan Martin del Potro, Daniil Medvedev, Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios while defending champion Rafael Nadal could meet Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals

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