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Ricky’s Preview And Picks For The Rome Masters: Will Nadal Restore Order?

By Ricky Dimon


The third clay-court Masters 1000 tournament of the year—and fifth Masters in the span of two months—will take place his week in Rome. Rafael Nadal is hoping to restore order following a surprising Madrid loss by winning his eighth Rome title and first since 2013. It may not be so simple, though, because Nadal once finds himself in the same quarter as Dominic Thiem and a strong field also includes Alexander Zverev, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Novak Djokovic.


Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Where: Rome, Italy

Prize money: 4,872,105 Euros

Top seed: Rafael Nadal

Defending Champion: Alexander Zverev


Nadal generally captures three clay-court titles leading into the French Open: Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and either Madrid or Rome. Last season it was Madrid and not Rome. Will it be Rome this time, after the 16-time major champion suffered an upset loss to Thiem in the Madrid quarters? That should turn out to be the case, but Nadal’s draw is not helpful. Nadal will likely get things started against Fernando Verdasco before possibly running into Madrid semifinalist Denis Shapovalov in round three and Thiem in the quarters. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, and the always-dangerous Miami champion John Isner are potential semifinal foes for the top seed.


Another rough draw for Djokovic has seen him land not only in the same half as Nadal and in the same quarter as Dimitrov and Isner, but also in the same quarter as Jack Sock, David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori, and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Dimitrov’s opener may come against Nishikori, while Kohlschreiber and Karen Khachanov are set to face each other in one of the more intriguing first-round contests.


At the bottom of the bracket, Del Potro seemingly has one of the most difficult draws of all. The Indian Wells Champ likely awaits Borna Coric right away and is on collision courses with David Goffin for the third round and with Zverev for the quarterfinals. Zverev, on the other hand, should have less trouble reaching the quarters. The second seed and current Madrid finalist will kick off his campaign against either wild card Matteo Berrettini or a qualifier before doing battle with either Lucas Pouille, Kyle Edmund, Andreas Seppi, or another qualifier.


In the most up-for-grabs section, fourth-seeded Marin Cilic and seventh-seeded Kevin Anderson own first-round byes. Newly married Cilic lost early in Istanbul to Malek Jaziri and then skipped Madrid, while Anderson got his clay-court swing off and running with a semifinal showing in Madrid but may find Rome conditions less favorable. This could be a real opportunity for Pablo Carreno Busta and Diego Schwartzman to do some significant damage.


Other first-rounders to watch are Djokovic vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov, Shapovalov vs. Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet vs. Benoit Paire, and Gael Monfils vs. Fabio Fognini.


First-round upset possibility: (WC) Andreas Seppi over (16) Lucas Pouille. It may be hard to believe, but in all nine of his 2018 events, Pouille has either advanced all the way to the final or lost his opening match. The unfortunate latter fate has plagued him six times, and Seppi is playing well enough to make it a seventh in Rome. These two competitors square off on clay earlier this spring (and also in Italy), when Pouille needed five sets to get the job done and help France eventually reach the Davis Cup semis. Seppi, a Rome quarterfinalist in 2012, recently advanced to the third round in Monte-Carlo as a qualifier and to the Budapest semifinals.


Quarterfinal picks: Rafael Nadal over Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic over Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreno Busta over Diego Schwartzman, and David Goffin over Kyle Edmund

Semifinals: Nadal over Djokovic and Goffin over Carreno Busta

Final: Nadal over Goffin


Editor’s note: While professional action is heating up in Rome, ITALY, Ricky’s high-school girls tennis team just won the state championship in Rome, GEORGIA. It is Westminster’s second straight state title and fourth in the last six years, after they beat their region rivals Pace Academy and Lovett in the semis and final, respectively–avenging losses to both teams earlier in the season.

Way to go Coach Ricky Dimon and his girls!!!!


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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