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Tennis • Ricky’s Preview and Picks For The Internazionali BNL d’Italia — Rome Masters 1000

Ricky’s preview and picks for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia — Rome Masters 1000

By Ricky Dimon

The U.S. Open is over, which means it’s time to start focusing on…the clay-court swing?!?! Yes, this is 2020 after all. European clay is normally a thing of the past by this point on the annual calendar, but in 2020 it is just getting started. Miomir Kecmanovic kicked it off with a title in Kitzbuhel on Sunday, and now the clay-court action heats up in a major way with the Rome Masters. U.S. Open finalists Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev are not participating, but both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are on board.

Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Where: Rome, Italy
Surface: Clay
: 1000
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Rafael Nadal

Nadal opted not to go over to the United States for the season’s second Grand Slam, instead practicing on clay to gear up for a run at a 10th Rome title—and more importantly a 13th French Open triumph. That is one reason (of many) why he should have an advantage over Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round. Carreno Busta will be making a quick turnaround from hard courts to clay after making a run to the U.S. Open semifinals. The world No. 27 earned a “performance bye” in Rome due to that result, which is why he is already in round two despite being unseeded.

Also in the bottom quarter of the draw are Diego Schwartzman, Andrey Rublev, and Milos Raonic. Nadal could face Raonic in the third round and either Schwartzman or Rublev in the quarters. Potential semifinal opponents are Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, and Grigor Dimitrov. Fabio Fognini has a bye in the Tsitsipas section, but the Italian is coming back from ankle surgery and lost his Kitzbuhel opener 6-1, 6-2 to Marc-Andrea Huesler.

At the top of the bracket, the question—of course—is how Djokovic will rebound from his shocking default against Carreno Busta in round four of the U.S. Open. The good news is that he should feel comfortable in Rome, where he is a four-time champion (quite a clay-court accomplishment during the Nadal era). But it won’t be easy, because Stan Wawrinka is also in the top quarter and he has been hard at work on clay with a 7-0 record and two recent Challenger events. That is certainly better preparation for Rome than getting defaulted out of a hard-court slam.

Novak Djokovic during a training session at the Italian Open

The other semifinal spot in the top half appears to be completely up for grabs. Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin own the first-round byes in that quarter, but Karen Khachanov, Jan-Lennard Struff, and the winner of a first-round showdown between Cristian Garin and Borna Coric should provide plenty of resistance.

First-round upset possiblity
: Borna Coric over (14) Cristian Garin. Garin is ranked higher and seeded, but the real reason why he is favored here is because of his clay-court exploits earlier in 2020. The 24-year-old Chilean triumphed in Cordoba and Rio de Janeiro, giving him four career ATP titles (all on clay, all in the past two seasons). Still, Coric cannot be discounted. He is coming off a run to the U.S. Open quarterfinals and is certainly no slouch on the slow stuff. One of his two titles and one of his four runner-up performances have come on this surface.

Quarterfinal picks: Stan Wawrinka over Novak Djokovic, David Goffin over Jan-Lennard Struff, Stefanos Tsitsipas over Guido Pella, and Rafael Nadal over Andrey Rublev

Semifinals: Wawrinka over Goffin and Nadal over Rublev

Final: Nadal over Wawrinka

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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