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Tennis News • Djokovic And Nadal Both Play for third-round Places In Rome ATP Masters 2020

Novak Djokovic in action during his second round match against Salvatore Caruso.

By Ricky Dimon

Third-round action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia concludes on Friday, when top two seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal return to the court. A whole host of Serbs are on the schedule, in fact, as Filip Krajinovic and Dusan Lajovic are the two opponents.

Ricky previews the two matches and makes his picks.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Filip Krajinovic

It will be an all-Serbian affair when Djokovic and Krajinovic go head-to-head for just the second time in their careers and for the first time in more than 10 years. Their only previous encounter came at the 2010 Belgrade event, where Djokovic retired after dropping the first set 6-4.

Rome’s top seed knows all too well about matches ending before their scheduled conclusion, but he bounced back nicely from the U.S. Open disaster with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Salvatore Caruso on Wednesday. Caruso is in stellar form these days, and so is Krajinovic. The world No. 29 is 7-2 since the sport returned, including wins this week over Felix Auger-Aliassime and Marco Cecchinato. Krajinovic has way more belief against the top players than Lajovic, for example, so that is another reason why this will be by far the more interesting of the two matches.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

Rafael Nadal hits a backhand in his second round match against Pablo Carreno.

Dusan Lajovic vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Unsurprisingly, Nadal did not show any signs up rust during his opener at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday. Although the world No. 2 had not played a match since February, he enjoyed a long training block on clay while most everyone else grinded away on the hard courts of New York. Nadal promptly took advantage of weary U.S. Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, dominating 6-1, 6-1.

Up next for the nine-time Rome champion on Friday is Lajovic, who is 0-2 in the head-to-head series and 0-6 in total sets. Prior to this week, the 25th-ranked Serb had been 0-3 since the restart with a Cincinnati loss to Carreno Busta followed by setbacks against opponents ranked outside the top 70. Lajovic has done well to beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Milos Raonic in Rome, but a massive step up in competition should bring about a swift end to his run.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 3-4 games

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