Andy Murray, the world #2, improved to 1-2 on the season against world #1 Novak Djokovic, as he toppled the hobbled Serbian 6-3 6-3 in rather routine fashion. Djokovic faced break points early on, and was broken once midway through the set, failing to challenge further as Murray took it. In set 2 he gave Murray a tougher fight, the Brit had to save break points in both of his early service games before he broke midway through and went on to serve the set out without too much difficulty. Djokovic was clearly not at 100% this week, and it’s understandable that a player as talented and consistent as Murray would find a way to defeat him at less than his best. Djokovic still will be the favorite to win the French Open though, with Rafael Nadal, and Murray, along with Rome semifinalist Kei Nishikori serving as other possible champions.
Murray moved to 20-5 on the season and took his first Masters title of the year with straight set wins over Mikhail Kukushkin, Jeremy Chardy, David Goffin, and Lucas Pouille, as none of those players are elite and failed to give him much of a contest, even on clay. Pouille, a qualifier, broke through with wins over Ernests Gulbis and David Ferrer, before he got a walkover against Juan Monaco in the quarterfinals. Pouille got the seedline of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when Tsonga withdrew. Monaco pulled out after upsetting Stan Wawrinka. The Frenchman certainly gained more fans in advance of Roland Garros 2016.
Djokovic dropped sets against both Thomaz Bellucci, and Kei Nishikori in the semifinals. He also vanquished Stephane Robert, and his rival Rafael Nadal, narrowly edging Nadal in two sets. Against Nishikori he had to win a third set tiebreak, and though he was injured, the Japanese #1 couldn’t take advantage, choking under the pressure of trying to beat the world #1, something he has failed to do since reaching the US Open final some time ago.
The Bryan brothers returned to the winners circle in doubles, capturing the title in Rome for the fourth time over the North American pairing of Jack Sock/Vasek Pospisil. This year’s French Open doubles action promising to be quite entertaining, and interesting with a host of teams in contention for the title, including the veteran American twins.
2016 ATP Rome Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Rome is the final Masters stop on the ATP tour before Roland Garros 2016, as most of the top players will travel to partake in tennis, Italian style.
Internazionali BNL D’Italia
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
May 8-15, 2016
Prize Money: €3,748,925
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Roger Federer (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (4)
5: Rafael Nadal (5)
6: Kei Nisihkori (6)
7: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7)
8: Tomas Berdych (8)
Marin Cilic, John Isner, and Gilles Simon are the only notables missing from this year’s ATP Rome tournament.
Zverev slipped past Dimitrov in Indian Wells this year, and they have a split 1-1 h2h. This will be the first meeting on clay between the young gun German, and the Bulgarian trying to get back to the top of his game. Zverev comes off the semis in Munich, and I have him as the favorite over the Istanbul finalist Dimitrov. Dimitrov exited early in Madrid, and consistency has not been his strength.
(13)Dominic Thiem vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Thiem and Dolgo have a split h2h, with Thiem likely to have the advantage on clay. Dolgopolov is 3-2 on clay this year, winning the matches he should based on ranking. Thiem was a finalist in Munich, but was promptly upset by Del Potro in Madrid. He should be good to go for Rome success though.
Albert Ramos vs. Sam Querrey
Ramos has a pair of wins over Querrey, and is a mediocre 8-9 on clay this year, even though it’s his best surface. He’s 3-2 over his last five matches on clay. Querrey is 4-2 on clay over his last two tournaments, and won a pair of matches on clay, both of which were upsets. Those upset wins inspired a lot of talk in the tennis world about improved American results on clay, and we’ll see if Querrey can continue the success.
Mayer lost his opening match in Madrid, while Goffin has been rather poor this year on clay, going 3-3. Goffin should be far better based on ranking and skill, but Mayer is credible on clay and Goffin could be vulnerable to continually struggling and getting knocked off again.
The four-time and defending Rome champion Novak Djokovic is in the Madrid final this week, and he’ll be looking for the Madrid/Rome Masters double. Novak will start with a qualifier, and either Gael Monfils or Pablo Cuevas is his likely third round opponent. Monfils opens with a struggling Thomaz Bellucci, while Cuevas faces Nicolas Mahut. Cuevas just slipped past Monfils in a third set tiebreak in Madrid, going on to lose in the third round. I have him repeating that feat and falling to Djokovic in round 3 in Rome.
Madrid semifinalist and seven time Rome champion Rafael Nadal is likely to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Nadal will need to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber (or a qualifier), and either Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios to get that far though. Nadal has a pair of clay titles this spring, before losing to Andy Murray in Madrid. Kohlschreiber lost to Nadal in Barcelona, and won Munich. The match between Kyrgios and Raonic should feature some fierce power hitting in the second round. Raonic has to beat Italian Marco Cecchinato for the second time in recent weeks. He was a quarterfinalist in both Monte Carlo and Madrid, losing to top 3 players both times. Kyrgios is 5-2 on clay as of late and reached the quarters in Madrid. He opens with wild card Salvatore Caruso, a little known 23 year old. Kyrgios has won his last two meetings against Raonic, after losing the first two, including a match on clay. It’s a tough match to pick, but I have Raonic slipping past Kyrgios due to his consistency. Nadal should beat Raonic (or Kyrgios) given it’s clay.
Roger Federer has four career finals, but no career titles in Rome. After pulling out of Madrid, he’s unlikely to be much of a factor in this tournament, and in fact I have Zverev upsetting him to reach the third round, after Zverev defeats Dimitrov. If it’s not Zverev, Dominic Thiem should defeat Federer, after beating Dolgopolov, and Joao Sousa. Sousa was a quarterfinalist in Madrid and should defeat 20 year old wild card Lorenzo Sonego, who is making his ATP debut. Thiem beat Zverev in Munich.
Madrid semifinalist and Barcelona finalist Kei Nishikori is the favorite to reach the quarters in this section as well. He should have no issues defeating either Viktor Troicki or a struggling Teymuraz Gabashvili in round 2, and then Richard Gasquet once again in round 3, just as he did in straight sets in Madrid. Gasquet should beat Julien Benneteau, and Andreas Seppi/Vasek Pospisil given the difference in ranking and form on this surface.
Stan Wawrinka is just 2-2 on clay this season, and lost his opening match in Madrid. At this rate he’s going to struggle to remain a top 5 player. He should defeat his friend Benoit Paire in his first match though, presuming Paire defeats Bernard Tomic, and adds to the Australian’s freefall in recent weeks. Paire has a couple of clay semifinals in recent weeks, but lost his opening match in Madrid. The winner of Paire/Wawrinka should decide the quarter, as Feliciano Lopez/Steve Johnson/Juan Monaco are unlikely to stop them in the third round. Lopez has never defeated Kevin Anderson (0-3), but Anderson has been in horrible form, while Lopez is 2-3 over his last five matches. Lopez should beat Anderson, then Monaco, before losing to Wawrinka.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer may duel for a quarterfinal spot as well, if Italian favorite Fabio Fognini doesn’t make a run himself in Rome. Tsonga is 5-4 on clay this season, and lost his second match in Madrid. Ivo Karlovic opens with a qualifier and the winner will face Tsonga round 2. Ferrer opens with a qualifier as well, while Fognini will face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, before Ferrer. Ferrer lost in the third round of Madrid, while Fognini was a semifinalist in Munich before losing round 2 in Madrid. I have Ferrer slipping past Fognini given the 9-0 h2h. Ferrer has two clay wins over Tsonga, but I have Tsonga winning because Ferrer doesn’t seem to be the same player he was at this point.
The current Madrid finalist Andy Murray should continue his recent run of form with a victory over Borna Coric/qualifier, and then a third round win over Roberto Bautista Agut. Murray isn’t in an overly difficult section, as RBA opens with Paolo Lorenzi, with Jeremy Chardy/qualifier to follow. RBA has third round results in both Monte Carlo, and Madrid, this year on clay. He’s the favorite of the players who could face Murray round 3.
Tomas Berdych is the favorite to face Murray in the quarters, the Czech needs only to defeat Querrey/Ramos and then Goffin/Mayer or Jack Sock/Guido Pella to get that far. Sock’s 5-2 record on clay as of late should move to 6-2 with a solid win over Pella. I then have Sock upsetting Goffin, before falling to Berdych in round 3. Berdych is 2-0 against Sock.
I’m not going to count Kyrgios as a dark horse given what a strong player he’s recognized as these days, seeding aside. Zverev needs to upset Dimitrov, Federer, and Thiem, but he could emerge as an unlikely quarterfinalist from the top half.
Paire has a win over Wawrinka this year, though Wawrinka dominates the h2h overall over his good friend. With Wawrinka slumping, and Paire capable of solid play on clay, we could see an upset that ends up with Paire in the quarterfinals or better.
Quarterfinals Djokovic d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Thiem
Tsonga d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Berdych
Djokovic and Nishikori are a cut above the competition right now, Wawrinka has a good record against Tsonga on clay, but he’s been struggling as of late, Murray just steamrolled Berdych in Madrid.
Semifinals Djokovic d. Nishikori
Murray d. Tsonga
Look for a reprisal of the Madrid final in Rome, Murray is the best player in the bottom half, and Djokovic should beat Nishikori again in the top half to reach the final.