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Nadal and Djokovic in top half of Rome Masters Tennis draw, Alcaraz in Zverev’s quarter

Rafael Nadal (R) and Novak Djokovic (L) may meet in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2021. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

By Ricky Dimon

There was no Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal matchup in Madrid, but it could happen in Rome. Just as he did this past week, Nadal finds himself in the top half of the bracket and on a semifinal collision course with Djokovic at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Overall, however, it is a much more balanced draw than what was on display at the Madrid Masters. Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Andrey Rublev are all on the other side just as they were in Madrid, but this time they are joined by Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old Spaniard was in Nadal’s quarter at the preceding Masters 1000 tournament (and he won that quarterfinal matchup 6-2, 1-6, 6-3).

Nadal’s fellow top-eight seed in his Rome section is Casper Ruud, who was awesome on clay in 2021 but has struggled on the red stuff this spring after making a surprise run to a Masters 1000 final on the hard courts of Miami. Up first for the 21-time Grand Slam champion could be John Isner, followed by either Denis Shapovalov, Dan Evans, Nikoloz Basilashvili, or Italy’s own Lorenzo Sonego. Ruud awaits either Sebastian Korda or Botic van de Zandschulp in what will likely be a tough opening match.

Jannik Sinner represents home hopes in Rome. EPA-EFE/Alessandro Di Marco

Djokovic should not have any trouble until at least the quarters. That is where the top-ranked Serb could run into Felix Auger-Aliassime, Diego Schwartzman, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, or red-hot countryman Miomir Kecmanovic.

With Lorenzo Musetti forced out by a thigh injury suffered in Madrid, Jannik Sinner will have by far the loftiest expectations among the Italian contingent. His path through the bracket may be a fun one, too. The world No. 12 could meet Dominic Thiem or Fabio Fognini in the second round, Rublev in the last 16, Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals, and either Zverev or Alcaraz in the semis. As for Zverev and Alcaraz, they have favorable draws in the early rounds and should have no trouble setting up a head-to-head showdown in the quarters.

In addition to Korda-van de Zandschulp and Thiem-Fognini, first-round matches to watch are Schwartzman vs. Kecmanovic, Reilly Opelka vs. Stan Wawrinka, Hubert Hurkacz vs. David Goffin, and Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Alex de Minaur.

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