After a great tournament in Madrid, the tour heads to Rome for the second Premier tournament in as many weeks. Elina Svitolina is the defending champion on the last major stop to Roland Garros. Let’s get to it.
Simona Halep’s winning run in Madrid came to an end at the hands of Karolina Pliskova, so the Romanian will be keen to regain some ranking points in Rome. She enters as the top seed so gets a BYE into round two where she will face the winner of Victoria Azarenka vs Naomi Osaka–a brutal draw. Madison Keys is also in this section, but her struggles on clay may give Carla Suarez Navarro or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a chance to make the round of 16.
Caroline Garcia had a good run to the Madrid semi finals, but a 2 & 2 defeat to Kiki Bertens ended it on a sour note. The Frenchwoman looks to have found some form though and she should be safe to make the last 16 with a declining Sara Errani or Timea Babos waiting in round two. Sloane Stephens will likely meet her there, but she herself has a tough opener against Barbora Strycova.
I expect the seeds to advance to the quarter finals here despite some tough matches along the way. Both Garcia and Halep prefer the courts of Madrid, but in Rome I would give the Romanian the edge.
Prediction: Halep def. Garcia
Rome has been quite a good pit-stop to Roland Garros for Garbine Muguruza, so despite her indifferent form the Spaniard is a dangerous player here. She will open against the winner of Daria Gavrilova vs Cici Bellis which will be an interesting second round match with both those players presenting a challenge. Ashleigh Barty is the other seed here, but the Aussie prefers faster surfaces and has Maria Sharapova as an opening round opponent. Francesca Schiavone will play her last Rome tournament this week and opens against Dominika Cibulkova.
Jelena Ostapenko disappointed in Madrid but the thing with the Latvian is that she can hit form at any time. She has a relatively soft draw after Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal, so that means that Magdalena Rybarikova is the other seed in this section. She plays Johanna Konta in round one. Mihaela Buzarnescu might be the biggest challenge in this section for Ostapenko as she has form on her side this clay season.
It could all lead to a Muguruza vs Ostapenko quarter final which would be a titanic battle. Muguruza historically struggles with big hitters, but let’s face it–on clay she has the edge over the Latvian.
Prediction: Muguruza def. Ostapenko
Elina Svitolina is the defending champion here and is one of the favourites as a result. She will be well rested after exiting Madrid early, but she herself as a tough draw ahead. Lesia Tsurenko and Petra Martic are dangerous floaters and we have seen how difficult Daria Kasatkina can be to beat. The Russian’s draw is quite a nice one so she could await Svitolina in the round of 16.
Karolina Pliskova, 2017 US Open
Karolina Pliskova has been a revelation on clay this season. It is usually a surface she struggles on, but a title win in Stuttgart followed by a semi final in Madrid has shown her improvements on the surface. Rome has slower conditions, though, that could hinder her, and the Kiki Bertens second round draw is brutal. Does the Dutchwoman have enough in the tank after her run in Madrid though? Maria Sakkari will be there to test that. You can also not count out Angelique Kerber, who is also in this section.
This is a difficult section with two very dangerous unseeded players in there. I think Svitolina will make it to the last eight, but it depends on how Bertens looks. If she continues her Madrid form I think the Dutchwoman will go far, but I expect the exhaustion to catch up to her when she makes the last eight.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Bertens
Caroline Wozniacki heads to Rome after a disappointing loss to Bertens in Madrid. Clay has not been her best surface despite having a game that suits it, but the draw is pretty kind to the Dane. Sam Stosur is a shadow of her former self, and whilst Kristina Mladenovic and Anastasija Sevastova are both capable here, they are not in the best of form themselves.
The other half of this section is really difficult to call. Venus Williams is the seeded player, but her difficulties on this surface are well documented. Coco Vandeweghe’s form came crashing down in Madrid and the Rome conditions do not suit her game at all, which could give Anett Kontaveit a chance to go deep. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most natural clay courter here, but she is coming in off an injury and has no form behind her at all.
This is the weakest quarter of the draw and by the sheer lack of form and clay court prowess here, I have to go with Wozniacki defeating Kontaveit in the quarter finals.
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka Hoping For Rejuvenation in Rome Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 ATP stop in Rome is a marquee Masters 1000 event, and the last major tuneup for many ATP players prior to the French Open. Here is your full preview, with predictions of this prestigious event.
Rafael Nadal‘s most challenging opponent looks to be young Denis Shapovalov, who is still alive in Madrid. Shapovalov has posted a strong clay season and presuming he’s fit, he should upset the struggling Tomas Berdych, and then get past Daniil Medvedev or Robin Haase to reach round 3. Rafa needs to beat Damir Dzumhur or countryman Fernando Verdasco to reach round 3. Despite suffering his first loss in a long time in Madrid, Nadal should be favored into the quarterfinals.
Possible Madrid champion Dominic Thiem will be tested by Fabio Fognini or Gael Monfils in his opening match. I’ll back Sam Querrey to beat Peter Gojowczyk and Lorenzo Sonego/Adrian Mannarino before falling to Thiem (or Monfils) in round 3.
Kei Nishikori hopes to snap a three match losing streak against veteran Feliciano Lopez, Grigor Dimitrov awaits in round 2 in a matchup that looks 50/50. I’ll go with Dimitrov to meet Philipp Kohlschreiber in round 3. Kohlschreiber opens with Karen Khachanov, Jack Sock or David Ferrer will follow. Based on form and upside Dimitrov over Kohli is my pick.
Novak Djokovic is just 6-6 this season, he should get past Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 1, then a qualifier in round 2, but his first big test will come against John Isner in round 3. Isner opens with a qualifier or Albert Ramos. I’m not confident but I’ll predict Djokovic into the quarterfinals given his relatively easy draw.
Marin Cilic will face off with Ryan Harrison or Yuichi Sugita and should reach round 3, but I have Diego Schwartzman as the favorite in the section. Schwartzman should beat a qualifier, Richard Gasquet/Benoit Paire, and a struggling Cilic to reach the quarters.
Madrid semifinalist Kevin Anderson will be favored against Aljaz Bedene or Gilles Muller while Stan Wawrinka returns to tour from injury against Steve Johnson. Wawrinka is an elite player, but fitness and form have been a major problem for him in recent months. I’ll back him against Johnson but Pablo Carreno Busta should beat Jared Donaldson, then Wawrinka (or Johnson) before falling to Anderson in round 3.
Still alive in Madrid, Alexander Zverev has put together a fantastic clay court season. Zverev will face a qualifier or Matteo Berrettini in round 2, then should await Kyle Edmund in round 3. Edmund will be favored against a qualifier and Lucas Pouille/Andreas Seppi, with Pouille a disaster right now. I’d expect fatigue to become a factor for Zverev, and I’ll go with Edmund in an upset.
Juan Martin Del Potro will have a big matchup against Borna Coric, presuming Coric defeats a qualifier in the opening round. I’ll go with Coric in a minor upset with David Goffin or Pablo Cuevas awaiting in round 3. Goffin faces Leonardo Mayer, while Cuevas duels with Marco Cecchinato. Coric over Goffin is my pick in round 3.
It is fair to say that Madrid did not go to plan for Angelique Kerber. The world number one is still trying to find her feet this season, but clay is not her best surface. Kerber should be good for the third round, but things get interesting form then on. She could possibly meet Maria Sharapova in round three, providing the Russian cat beat Christina McHale then the winner of Lucie Safarova vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. With Kerber’s struggles this year, Sharapova could make the last eight here, but the world number one will still be the favourite given how soon the Russian is in to her comeback.
Simona Halep once again had a good run in Madrid, so her participation in Rome may slightly be in doubt. Players can often do well one week then withdraw the next so it will be interesting to see if the Romanian heads to Rome. If so, Halep will be one of the favourites. Laura Seigemund or Naomi Osaka will welcome Halep to Rome. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is projected to face the sixth seed in the third round, but she has a tough draw with Sam Stosur and Anastasija Sevastova in her section.
Prediction: Halep def. Kerber
Dominika Cibulkova failed to defend her final points in Madrid, so Rome could be a big tournament for the Slovakian. She will want to avoid another early exit when she faces the winner of Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. The first seeded player projected for Cibulkova is Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman played well to make the quarter finals in Madrid and could be a handful for the fourth seed should they meet in the third round. Bertens opens against Monica Niculescu, then will likely face Misaki Doi in the second round. There are some tough matches but Cibulkova will be the favourite to make it to the quarter finals.
Svetlana Kuznetsova had another good run in Madrid where she made the semi finals. Clay suits the Russian’s game and given the quarter she will fancy another semi final appearance in Rome. Katerina Siniakova or Shuai Zheng will be her first opponent, then possibly Madison Keys in round three. The American could have a difficult match against Caroline Garcia in round three, providing the Frenchwoman is fit after her back injury. But Keys is a former finalist here and could set up an interesting clash with Kuznetsova in the third round.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Cibulkova
The third quarter is headlined by a player who is out of form, and another who struggles on clay…this could get messy. Johanna Konta has never adapted well to the dirt, and her early exit in Madrid was not a surprise. It will not be a shock to see the Briton struggle against Monica Puig or Yulia Putintseva in round two. Venus Williams is another player who struggles on clay, and she has a dangerous draw against Yaroslava Shvedova. It is a hard section to call as almost every player could make the quarter finals.
Garbine Muguruza’s year did not get any better in Madrid where she lost in round one. The Spaniard did go deep in Rome last year, though, and will be looking to repeat that result in 2017. Muguruza should be good for the third round, but Kristina Mladenovic in the round of 16 could be a bridge too far, if she is not feeling the effects of her run in Madrid. The Frenchwoman has been in fine form this year, and could have a good result again in Rome. Mladenovic opens against Julia Goerges, then plays Alison Riske or Jelena Jankovic in round two.
Prediction: Mladenovic def. Venus
Karolina Pliskova is another player who often struggles to adapt her game to clay, so there could be another upset on the cards in the fourth quarter. Pliskova was soundly beaten by Sevastova in Madrid, and Carla Suarez Navarro could be a tough match too in the second round of Rome. Barbora Strycova is scheduled for the third round, but the Czech has a tough opener against Daria Kasatkina, then possibly Timea Bacsinszky.
Elina Svitolina exited Madrid shockingly early, but the Ukrainian could respond well in Rome. The eighth seed faces Alize Cornet or Sara Errani in the second round, two difficult opponents but players she should beat. Elena Vesnina is the projected third round opponent, and the Russian should make it too with a host of qualifiers in the section. It is a good draw for Svitolina, though, who should make the semi finals and possibly go further.
It is a tough tournament to call because there are so many unknown factors. Halep and Mladenovic are the form players but will their Madrid run leave them fatigued for Rome? The draw is open to a lot of upsets too but I am picking the in-form Halep to go all the way.
WTA Rome Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a rollercoaster ride in Madrid, the tour heads to Italy for the Internazionali BNL D’Italia in Rome.
Internazionali BNL D’Italia
Location: Rome, Italy
Prize money: € 2,399,000
Date: May 9-15
Top eight seeds Ranking):
Serena Williams (1)
Angelique Kerber (3)
Garbine Muguruza (4)
Victoria Azarenka (5)
Petra Kvitova (6)
Simona Halep (7)
Roberta Vinci (8)
Carla Suarez Navarro (11)
The big absentees are Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska.
First round matches to watch:
Madison Keys vs Andrea Petkovic
This should be a nicely contested match between two players with different styles. Keys brings huge power to the court whilst Petkovic likes to counter.
These two have met only once before in Beijing in 2014. The German got the better of that one 6-2, 6-3. Neither player boasts the best of form so this could act as a confidence booster. Winner gets Kvitova in the second round
Ana Ivanovic vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
If the Russian brings her Madrid form into Rome then we could see a potential upset in the opening round against Ivanovic.
The Serb bowed out in the Spanish capital to Louisa Chirico and is 5/5 in her last ten matches. However she has a dominant head to head of 7-1 over Pavlyuchenkova, with two of those victories coming on clay.
The Russian picked up a victory in Wuhan last year but the clay should suit the former world number one more.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Caroline Garcia
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisAtlantic.com)
Of matches that can go either way, this might be near the top of the list. Both players are capable of producing excellent tennis, but they struggle with consistency.
Kuznetsova and Garcia did not have the best of tournaments in Madrid and will be looking to respond with a good victory here. Their last match was a three set thriller in Miami, will be get a repeat in Rome?
The world number one is back in action to play her first clay court tournament of the year after skipping Madrid. Williams is still looking for her first title this season five months into it. Serena should breeze through her second round against Anna Schmiedlova or Anna-Lena Friedsam to set up a potential clash with Ana Ivanovic. The Serb could have her hands full with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Simona Halep played her best tennis in a long time in Madrid and suddenly it looks like she is a grand slam contender again. The Romanian will meet either Sabine Lisicki or Daria Gavrilova in the second round, both can be dangerous but both are should wins. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the projected third round opponent but the Russian could have her handsful with Caroline Garcia in round one and Sam Stosur in round two. Stosur is on a good run of form after the final in Prague and semi final run in Madrid.
Azarenka is still down to play in Rome despite having a back injury that forced her out of Madrid earlier than she would have liked. The world number four is getting back to her best form and could be classed as a favourite to take home the title if healthy. Irina Begu or Margarita Gasparyan is not an easy round two by any means though. Begu is a consistent player whilst Gasparyan is a highly touted young player. Karolina Pliskova is projected for round three, but the Czech’s game does not translate best on the dirt. Monica Niculescu or Daria Kasatkina could take advantage of that fact.
Vinci will be the highest ranked Italian in the draw and possible crowd favourite. The seventh seed will likely entertain British number one Johanna Konta in the second round. The draw is quite nice for Konta to have a deep run. Lucie Safarova is the other seed within this section, and will face Francesca Schiavone in the opening round. The Czech withdrew from Madrid, so is she healthy enough to have a good run here?
Third seed Muguruza is still searching for her best form this year so she will be hoping for a quick turnaround in fortunes in Rome. Ekaterina Makarova or Danka Kovinic await in the second round, with the consistent Elina Svitolina possible for the third. The Ukrainian could face the very out-of-form Kristina Mladenovic in the second round, providing the Frenchman defeats Jelena Ostapenko.
It is possible that we could see an all Spanish quarter final here, that is providing that Suarez Navarro has recovered from her illness in Madrid. The eighth seed should not have many problems making he third round, but from there it could be tricky. Timea Bacsinszky is the projected opponent at this stage.
Kerber will be hoping that Rome goes more like Stuttgart than Madrid. The German was the winner in her home country but lost in the first roud in the Spanish capital. It’s either Jelena Jankovic or Eugenie Bouchard who will welcome her to the Italian capital. Sara Errani will be the home favourite from this section and could go deep on her best surface. Barbora Strycova is perhaps her biggest hurdle before Kerber in the third round.
Kvitova failed to defend her Madrid title so will be playing points catch-up in Rome. The Czech will have a tough opener against either Andrea Petkovic or Madison Keys. Like her sister, Venus Williams returns to action this week as the 12th seed. She will play big serving compatriot CoCo Vandeweghe in round one, then potentially another big server in Timea Babos in the second round.
Serena def. Halep
Azarenka def. Konta
Suarez Navarro def. Muguruza
Kerber def. Kvitova
Serena def. Azarenka
Kerber def. Suarez Navarro
Serena def. Kerber
It just seems so strange that Serena has not won anything this year that you have to predict her to win Rome. It might be a difficult and long road to the title, but the world number one will defeat Kerber in the final.
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.
Novak Djokovic repeated as champion in Rome, and certified himself as the favorite to take the Roland Garros crown with a 6-4 6-3 drubbing of Roger Federer, who failed yet again in his elusive search for a title in Rome, one of the few titles he has failed to win in his illustrious career. Djokovic, the world #1 has won all but one major tournament this year (Madrid) as he claimed his fifth title of the season (4 Masters+the Australian Open). Federer cracked under the pressure of Djokovic’s wallball defense, and had little chance, as he was a set and a break down rapidly, and Djokovic never looked back, putting on a clinic in the match between the world #1 and world #2.
Djokovic progressively improved as he advanced through the tournament this week, as he surprisingly showed signs of struggle early, dropping sets to Nicolas Almagro, Thomaz Bellucci, and Kei Nishikori before recording routine wins over David Ferrer, and Federer. Almagro, Bellucci and Nishikori all had their chances, while Ferrer was able to hold Djokovic close to the vest, but they were all unable to raise their level when it mattered, as Djokovic has the ability to slam the door even when struggling against opponents these days, and has cemented himself, going into Roland Garros as the favorite, though he has never won the title there, the only Slam he hasn’t won in his career.
Federer continued to impress given his age, and recovered from prior struggles this clay court season to record routine wins over Pablo Cuevas, Kevin Anderson, Tomas Berdych, and Stan Wawrinka, who shocked an abysmal Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. Nadal has serious question marks going into RG, while Wawrinka found his form, but wilted against his countryman Federer. Berdych once again struggled against a top tier opponent, after doing well against others.
Cuevas and David Marrero took the doubles title over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, as three Spaniards were represented in the doubles final in Rome this year.
2015 ATP Rome Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After the excitement of the Madrid Masters, the ATP heads to the third and final Masters event of the clay court season in Rome, where the intimate venue tends to create late night drama and bring out passionate fan support. This clay court season continues to be one of the most wide open in years, with multiple top players in feasible contention for the title going into this tournament.
2015 ATP Rome Preview
Internazionali BNL d’Italia
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 10-May 17, 2015
Prize Money: €3,288,530
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Milos Raonic pulled out but Djokovic is back in action, in terms of other names missing from the top 20, Tommy Robredo (injury), and Gael Monfils are both missing in action. Other players missing include Fernando Verdasco, and Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
The Italian wild card Vanni is unlikely to win over the much more accomplished Almagro, but he has a better chance than people are predicting. The slice and dicer on clay reached his first career ATP final at 29 in Sao Paulo, and he’s followed that up well as he qualified in Madrid, and then upset Bernard Tomic before falling in round 2 of the main draw. Vanni hits a lot of slice and has variety in his game, but not much power, and he’s on track to reach the top 100 and be able to compete at the ATP level on a regular basis. Almagro is still working back from injury problems and he comes off a round 1 loss in Madrid, though he has reached a pair of clay quarterfinals this Spring (Casablanca and Estoril). His power is likely to overwhelm Vanni matchup wise, but you never know if Vanni can work him into errors.
(11)Feliciano Lopez vs. Nick Kyrgios
With Lopez’s struggles on clay continuing unabated, Kyrgios is the favorite to score yet another top 15 win. The Aussie young gun is regularly battling hard against the ATP’s best these days, as he shocked Roger Federer in a Madrid thriller before falling in he round of 16. Prior to that, he reached the final in Estoril, his first on the ATP tour. It’s also notable he’s doing this on clay, which is his worst surface (likewise for Lopez). At this point it’s clear NK has arrived, and he’s earned the respect that a top player deserves, his rapid rise should continue with a win here as Lopez hasn’t won consecutive matches since March, he’s also one of the easier seeds to face on clay.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
An intriguing matchup of unpredictable players, the heavy hitting Cilic has yet to return to the form that saw him reach top 10 status, while Garcia-Lopez is having the best year of his career, while at the same time being inconsistent from week to week, as you never really know what you are going to get with him. The h2h is an even 1-1 and this is their first meeting on clay. The style contrast will be a joy as GGL brings variety and Cilic brings brute force. GGL won Bucharest and reached the Semis in Estoril, but lost early in both Casablanca and Madrid. Cilic reached the quarters in Monte Carlo but is just 1-2 since then, as the pressure is starting to build on the Croat if he is to keep his ranking up. This is another 50/50 match, but I’m going with Garcia-Lopez in an upset, he should be rested by now and appears to be playing better.
A quality matchup featuring clean ballstrikers, both have been in erratic form this season, but have the ability to play some of their tennis on clay. Thiem comes off the quarters in Munich but he’s just 2-3 on red clay this year, with 3 bad losses to lower ranked opponents. Bolelli, who reached the quarters in Bucharest, won a pair of matches before falling to Rafael Nadal in Madrid. The home court Italian is 5-4 on spring red clay in Europe, and playing in Rome is a big deal for him. This one could go either way, but given home soil, and a slight edge in form to Bolelli, I have him winning this one and continuing the pedestrian showings for Thiem.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. Jack Sock
A matchup of interest for American tennis fans, Houston champ Jack Sock, who upset Pablo Andujar in Madrid, and then pushed Tsonga to 3 sets, will take on the pusher Simon who is 3-2 on clay this year, and did not play in Madrid. Sock, who may be the best American clay courter right now (John Isner is the only other player in the conversation), will of course bring his aggressive forehand centric game to the table, against Simon’s defensive rallying and massaging of the ball. If Sock can keep his errors down and avoid frustration, he should be able to upset Simon, but that can be a tall task.
Three time, and defending champion Novak Djokovic should be well rested as he begins his quest to win yet another Masters title. It’s unlikely he’ll have much of a problem stretching his 18 match win streak to 20 matches as his first two opponents Vanni/Almagro and probably Roberto Bautista Agut, aren’t world beaters at the moment. RBA is 8-4 on clay this year, with all of those losses coming to top 8 opponents. He has a weak draw of Marcel Granollers, and a qualifier to start, but he doesn’t have the game to trouble Djokovic (0-2 h2h with no sets won). I don’t see Novak dropping a set en route to the quarterfinals.
Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and the winner in Barcelona, will open with the winner of Ernests Gulbis/Jiri Vesely, and in theory either of those opponents could give him trouble if he’s fatigued. That said, Gulbis continues his disastrous form (5 straight losses), and Vesely has lost three straight himself, so though they have the ability, it’s unlikely they will show it. Nishikori could be in more trouble in the round of 16 though, if Kyrgios continues his fine form and beats Lopez and then the Bernard Tomic/Viktor Troicki winner. Kyrgios-Tomic is a good matchup on paper, but Bernie is not a clay courter and he’s failed to impress this year on the surface (3 straight losses), likewise Troicki is in a slump (4 straight losses), so Kyrgios is actually a favorite in the section. Kyrgios-Nishikori is hard to predict, and stamina will be a factor, but given this is clay, I see Nishikori getting through to the quarters.
AndyMurray, who has a poor record in Rome (8-9),will open with the Jeremy Chardy/Lukas Rosol winner. Murray has been in solid form as of late, he’s currently a finalist in Madrid, and won Munich, but with so much tennis over the past two weeks, he could be fatigued going into this tournament. Chardy has lost three straight, while Rosol has a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, Chardy has a 2-0 clay h2h, but I still see Rosol winning a toss-up match. Murray just beat Rosol in a three setter in Munich, and presuming he does play in Rome, I still see him getting through his opening match, given his elite level of fitness. The next round should pose a problem however, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin are both solid clay court threats. Goffin pushed Nishikori to three sets in Madrid while Tsonga is 4-3 on the surface this year. Tsonga won the h2h match with Goffin on clay in Monte Carlo this year, and thus he should advance in another hard to predict matchup. Tsonga faces Sam Querrey round 1, and Goffin will face a qualifier. Tsonga and Murray have never played on clay, though Murray has a decisive h2h edge on other surfaces. I made the mistake last week of picking Murray to go out early, but I’m going to do it again anyway, and pick Tsonga to go through to the quarters, allowing Murray to get much needed rest before the French Open, where he could pose a threat given his play in Munich and Madrid.
David Ferrer will get a tough round 2 matchup will Richard Gasquet, barring Reeshy loses to a qualifier. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Gasquet, but lost their last two h2h meetings. The Barcelona semifinalist and Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist has been steady but not in peak form on clay this year. Gasquet won the title in Estoril then fell in round 2 of Madrid. It’ll be an interesting match, and fun to watch, but Ferrer has to be the favorite on clay to advance to the round of 16. There he is likely to face the winner of Garcia-Lopez/Cilic. Martin Klizan, who has played good tennis this season, was injured in Madrid, and it’s uncertain if he’s healthy again, he will open with a qualifier, and then the winner of that will be the next opponent for GGL/Cilic. Klizan has a h2h win on clay over GGL, and if he’s healthy, he could reach the round of 16, but for now GGL has to be the pick in this interesting section. Ferrer is 3-0 on clay against his countryman, and thus should reach the quarters, though he may drop a set or two en route.
Roger Federer, the champion in Istanbul, comes off a shock loss to Kyrgios in Madrid, and he’s never won the title in Rome (three previous finals). That said, he still should be able to recover his form and beat Pablo Cuevas, who he beat in Istanbul, in round 2. Cuevas will open with Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi. After Cuevas, the rather pedestrian draw for Federer will continue, as Philipp Kohlschreiber is his toughest possible round 3 opponent. Kohli will need to beat an injured Donald Young, and the winner of Florian Mayer/Kevin Anderson. Mayer is just 2-4 in his comeback, and Anderson has lost three straight. Kohlschreiber reached the final in Munich and the quarters in Barcelona (his last two losses in Madrid and Munich have come at the hands of Andy Murray), still Federer is a big step up in competition level and in 7 h2h matches, Kohlschreiber has won just a single set off the Swiss legend. Thus look for Federer to blitz through a pair of weak matches to reach the quarters.
Madrid semifinalist, and Monte Carlo finalist Tomas Berdych has been in fine form all season, and that should continue against Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Giraldo will open with Italian wild card Matteo Donati. He’s been in poor form, but he still should have enough game to beat the 20 year old who has 1 challenger final on his resume in 2015. Berdych should get a more interesting test against Grigor Dimitrov, a semifinalist in Istanbul, and a quarterfinalist in both Monte Carlo and Madrid. Dimitrov started the year off slow but he’s found a better run of form on clay, and thus should have little trouble dispatching Jerzy Janowicz, who has lost two straight, and Fabio Fognini who he just beat in 3 sets in Madrid. Fognini opens with American Steve Johnson, who is slowly getting used to playing on red clay it seems. The Italian will have fan support, but he’s still extremely moody and unpredictable. When it comes to Berdych-Dimitrov, the clay h2h is 1-1 and Dimitrov won their Rome meeting last year. That said, Berdych has been dare I say the most consistent player on tour this year, and his machinelike consistency gives him the edge to reach the quarters in yet another Masters event.
7 time Rome Champion, and current Madrid finalist Rafael Nadal should be able to blow past Adrian Mannarino/qualifier in round 2, and also defeat either John Isner or Leo Mayer in the round of 16. It’s a rather weak draw for the Spanish star. Isner will open with Joao Sousa, as he comes off the quarters in Madrid, a great result for him given it’s clay, while Mayer, who won a pair of matches in Madrid, faces Italian wild card Federico Gaio, a 23 year old with good results in futures. Isner should be able to reach the round of 16, but Nadal is 5-0 against him, with three wins on clay, including in Monte Carlo this year. Even when not at his best, Rafa has the edge against Isner, especially on clay.
Stan Wawrinka will take on Juan Monaco or a qualifier in his opening match, Stan the man continues to struggle, as he lost round 2 in Madrid, but he’s 4-0 against Monaco, including a win on clay this year, so regardless he should win his opening contest. After that Sock/Simon is likely to beckon in the round of 16, though Bolelli/Thiem are also options. All four of those players are very capable opponents and solid. Personally I’m backing Sock’s superior form to buzzsaw through to the round of 16, where he could upset Wawrinka. It’s perhaps unlikely, but Wawrinka is struggling, and appears mentally checked out, so the possibility is there. He’s the top 8 seed most likely to lose before the quarters but I still have him winning. Thiem, Bolelli, and Simon have all beaten Wawrinka before, while Thiem is the only player to do so on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, Jack Sock, Fabio Fognini
Kyrgios is a rather obvious dark horse choice, as he should reach the round of 16, and then we’ll see what kind of shape Nishikori is in. I wouldn’t give him much of a chance against Novak in the quarters, but he’s beaten Federer and Nadal, so who’s to say he can’t add another big four scalp to his list.
Goffin would need to beat Tsonga to get anywhere but if he does, like Jo, he has a great chance to benefit from Murray’s fatigue, and should he do so, beating Ferrer isn’t out of the question in the quarters. It’s an outside chance, but believable all the same.
Sock would have a great tournament just by beating Simon and Bolelli/Thiem, but if he upsets Wawrinka that would take the result to an even higher level of magnitude. All of those players would be tough opponents, but he has the game to do it, and can cement himself as the American #1 on clay if he runs the ringer.
Fognini could be a threat on home soil, the talent is there, but he’s incredibly hard to predict. He did push Dimitrov to three sets in Madrid, so if he can switch that result around you can’t entirely count him out against Berdych on clay, and given the circumstances.
Djokovic d. Nishikori
Ferrer d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Wawrinka
Berdych d. Federer
Djokovic won his only clay court match with Nishikori, and given he’s been the best player in the world all season, and he’s rested, I have little doubt he’ll at least reach the semifinals in Rome. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Tsonga, and no matter who he faces (Murray/Tsonga/Goffin), he should benefit from the draw and reach the semis due to how its structured.
I don’t see Nadal losing before the semis either, as Wawrinka, in his current form, is extremely unlikely to pose a threat, especially with Nadal rounding into form. Nadal is 5-0 on clay against Wawrinka. I’m going with an upset in Berdych vs. Federer, Federer has never played as well in Rome compared to other tournaments, and he was shaky in Istanbul and Madrid. By contrast Berdych’s game has been reliable and a threat to everyone on tour this year. Federer is 3-0 on clay, and beat Berdych this year at IW, but I don’t feel he’s the same player at the moment.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic actually tends to have to fight against Ferrer on clay (2-3 h2h) but he’s won the last two meetings on clay, he beat Ferrer this year on a hard court, and he’s been on fire all year. Nadal just beat Berdych in Madrid (he consistently does so with a 7-0 clay court h2h), thus it seems pretty inevitable that we’re headed for a Djokovic vs. Nadal final in Rome.
Djokovic d. Nadal
Djokovic defeated Nadal in Monte Carlo this year 7-5 6-3, and though Nadal is slightly better since that loss, he’s still not up to the same level he was, thus Djokovic should have the edge in a best 2/3 sets format. Nadal is capable of flashes of brilliance and plenty of hotshots in this classic rivalry, but Djokovic has the consistency to earn the win right now.