Rafael Nadal returns to action while Novak Djokovic tries to rebound from shock US Open exit at the 2020 Rome…
Rafael Nadal returns to action while Novak Djokovic tries to rebound from shock US Open exit at the 2020 Rome Masters.
We break down the men’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Djokovic, Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini lead the field at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, better known as the Rome Masters.
ATP Rome Masters Preview
The compressed and rescheduled European clay-court season gets its first big event at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, a combined Masters 1000 Series/WTA Premier-5 tournament played at the Foro Italico in Rome.
Usually a May event, this year the Rome Masters takes place from 14-21 September and is marked by the return to action of world no. 2 Rafael Nadal, looking for his tenth title in Rome as well as aiming to find his game after a six-month absence and ahead of his quest for a thirteenth French Open crown.
US Open semi/finalists Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev have pulled out, but those who made an earlier exit from New York than they wanted are in the field, including four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic, Greece’s Tsitsipas and home favourite Berrettini.
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ATP Rome Draw Analysis
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Gael Monfils (5)
No longer unbeaten in 2020, although still yet to lose a completed match, world no. 1 Djokovic takes the court in Rome surely still reeling from his shock US Open disqualification after accidentally striking a linesperson in the throat with a ball.
Djokovic has to look to the future, however, and he has an amazing record in Rome: Although the most recent of his fourth titles came in 2015, he has reached the final three times in subsequent years and the semifinal once. With a 50-9 record at the Foro Italico, Djokovic could face Felix Auger-Aliassime, who has made two ATP Tour finals on clay, in the third round; Auger-Aliassime has a first-round clash with the in-form Filip Krajinovic to contend with, and Kyle Edmund, who has beaten Djokovic on clay once before, is also in this section.
Gael Monfils makes his return to competition as Djokovic’s projected quarterfinal opponent, but could face US Open quarterfinalist Alex de Minaur in the second round, while all eyes will be on a potential second-round clash between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori with the winner to face Monfils or de Minaur in the third round.
Predicted semifinalist: Djokovic
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Matteo Berrettini (4) vs David Goffin (6)
Berrettini and Goffin both fell in the round of 16 in New York, so will not have had long to practice on clay. Fourth seed Berrettini will be the focus of home hopes, having made the round of 16 in Rome last year, but could have a tough second-round opener against big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff; the winner of that one is projected to face Cristian Garin, who beat Berrettini in the Munich final last year, in the third round. Garin opens against Borna Coric, a US Open quarterfinalist who might be pressed to recover enough to challenge for that one.
David Goffin could face Marin Cilic, struggling for form but always dangerous, after a first-round bye; Karen Khachanov, who plays some of his best tennis on clay, could await in the third although he has a tough opener against rising Norwegian Casper Ruud.
Predicted semifinalist: Garin
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Fabio Fognini (7) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (3)
Fognini, who lost to a Swiss qualifier ranked outside the top 300 when he made his return to competition in Kitzbuhel, comes in on a four-match losing streak stretching back to the Australian Open. One of the finest clay-courters on the ATP, who won a Masters 1000 Series on clay in Monte Carlo in 2019, Fognini has made one quarterfinal in 13 Rome appearances. He has a book to promote, though, and his draw isn’t awful: Kevin Anderson or Ugo Humbert in the second round, Denis Shapovalov possibly in the third; Guido Pella might be the only lurking threat.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is trying to rebound from letting six match points slip against Coric at the US Open. A semifinalist in Rome last year, Tsitsipas could face Italy’s youthful rising star Jannik Sinner in the second round and Grigor Dimitrov or perhaps Miomir Kecmanovic, a finalist in Kitzbuhel this week, in the third round.
Predicted semifinalist: Tsitsipas
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Diego Schwartzman (8) vs Rafael Nadal (2)
Argentina’s Schwartzman has been on poor form lately, 2-3 on his return to competition, so there could be some opportunity in this section; Andrey Rublev, who is 19-5 and fresh from a quarterfinal run at the US Open, could take advantage, with Dan Evans or Hubert Hurkacz – neither playing particularly well right now – his potential second-round opponents.
This quarter though is all about Rafa. Playing for the first time since winning Acapulco in February, Nadal has a 61-6 record in Rome and is on a ten-match winning streak there after winning his eighth and ninth titles at the Foro Italico in 2018-19. The physical demands of adjusting back to matches is the big question mark for Nadal, and he certainly hasn’t been given an easy opening opponent; he’ll be up against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, given a performance bye into the second round, unless Carreno Busta withdraws.
Milos Raonic – not a natural clay-courter – or Dusan Lajovic, a runner-up at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2019 but not playing well at the moment, could await in the third round; a very manageable draw for Nadal.
ATP Rome Masters Prediction
Djokovic d. Garin
Nadal d. Tsitsipas
Djokovic d. Nadal