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Federer vs Sousa ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Federer returns to Rome Masters action for the first time since 2016

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 May 2019
  • Roger Federer vs Joao Sousa is live from Rome on Thursday 16 May at 11.30am local/10.30am BST
  • Federer was taken to three sets in his only previous meeting with Sousa in Halle in 2014
Roger Federer. (Photo by Manu R.B./Alterphotos/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Roger Federer returns to action at the Rome Masters for the first time since 2016 on Thursday when he takes on Portugal's Joao Sousa in the second round.

Federer make his long-awaited comeback to the Rome Masters on Thursday in a second-round match against Joao Sousa rescheduled from Wednesday due to rain. The winner of the Sousa-Federer clash will have to return later in the day to face fifth seed Borna Coric in the third round.

Federer's last match on clay before his three-year break from the surface was actually in Rome- a 7-6 6-4 loss to Dominic Thiem in the third round in 2016- and it was Thiem again who halted the Swiss at his comeback tournament in Madrid last week, beating the great man in the quarter finals at the Caja Magica. 

Federer enjoyed a smooth return to clay, easing past Richard Gasquet in his comeback match in Madrid, and he looked on course for another comfortable outing in the third round when he took the first set against Gael Monfils in just 18 minutes. However, Monfils hit back to drag the match into a final set tie break, carving out two match points in the process, but Federer escaped with a 6-0 4-6 7-6 victory. The great Swiss again jumped out of the gates in his quarter final against Thiem, playing a trademark attacking brand as he exploited the quicker conditions in the Spanish capital, but Thiem made the adjustment in the second set, pushing closer to the baseline and generally matching Federer for aggression. A high quality tie-break ensued, with Federer gaining two match points, but Thiem hung tough to force a decider, which he largely controlled, and won.

Despite the defeat, Federer would have taken plenty of encouragement from pushing the in-form Thiem all the way. The world No. 3 was initially undecided about his participation in Rome, but he didn't take long to make a decision, opting to return to the Foro Italico for the first time since 2016 to continue his preparations for Roland Garros.

“I think I was playing well in Madrid, so I just said, again, 'Let's come to Rome,' a city I like so much as well”, Federer said. “Honestly, I love to play matches. Regardless of what happens here, I just think it's good for me to play matches at this stage.”

Along with the Monte Carlo, Rome is the only other Masters 1000 tournament that Federer has not won. He's made four finals- 2003, 2006, 2013, 2015- losing twice to Rafael Nadal, and once each to Felix Mantilla and Novak Djokovic.

Federer's quarter final exit in Madrid ended a run of three consecutive ATP Tour finals for the 20-time major winner. He had opened his season with a fourth-round run at the Australian Open, where he suffered a shock loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, but he responded with finals in Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, winning two of those, and losing the Indian Wells final to Dominic Thiem. His potential path to a fifth Rome final could see him play Tsitsipas in the quarter finals and Nadal in the semis, but he must first get past the opening couple of rounds, starting up with a match-up with Sousa on Thursday.

“I'm very happy to be here. I'm pumped up to play well. I mean, my excitement couldn't be bigger,” Federer said. “The moment I landed in Rome yesterday, I was so happy to be here. I love this city”. 

Sousa earned a date with Federer by taking down Next Gen star, Frances Tiafoe in the first round on Tuesday, battling to a to a three-hour 6-3 6-7 7-6 victory over the American. The Portuguese saved four match points while serving at 5-6 in the final set, before fighting back from 1-4 down in the tie break to win the last six points and dig out a very impressive comeback win.

Sousa hasn't had the best results on clay this year, going 2-3 in South America earlier in the season, and 1-4 in Europe prior to Rome, with his only previous victory coming against Alexei Popyrin in Estoril (where he was the defending champion). He had slightly better returns on hard courts, getting to the third round at the Australian Open and Miami- the only tournaments where he's managed to put together consecutive victories this season. Overall, he is 8-11 for the season, and has drifted to No. 72 in the world, having begun the year at 44th.

Sousa has been as high as 28th in the rankings- a mark he reached in 2016- while he possesses three career titles, the most recent of which he won in Estoril last season. He had 16 (!) opening round failures last year, but interspersed between all of that were a handful of good weeks. Outside Estoril, he reached semi-finals in Marrakech and Chengdu, while he made the fourth round at the US Open and the Miami Open in his other noteworthy results from last season.

Before beating Tiafoe on Tuesday, Sousa had not won a match in Rome since 2016. He was beaten by Kyle Edmund in his 2017 opener while he failed to qualify for the main draw last season. Can he now score back-to-back wins at the venue for the first time in his career when he plays Federer on Thursday?

Sousa took a set off Federer in their only previous meeting in Halle in 2014, but Federer recovered to win 6-7 6-4 6-2. The Portuguese is a pesky customer, and is difficult to shake off if he is allowed to hang around. Sousa doesn't have the explosive firepower to hit his through opponents, but he tries to be very aggressive, especially on the forehand wing at every opportunity.

That said, it's a match Federer should win comfortably, especially considering the form Sousa has been in.

Roger Federer vs Joao Sousa is live from Rome on Thursday 16 May at 11.30am local/10.30am BST

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Federer vs Sousa ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Federer returns to Rome Masters action for the first time since 2016

Roger Federer returns to Rome Masters action on Thursday as he takes on Joao Sousa in the second round. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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