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Ricky’s tennis picks for this week’s ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Rome

Rafael Nadal makes his Rome return this week. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

By Ricky Dimon

Two clay-court Masters 1000s have come and gone, which means we are coming down to the home stretch to the French Open. But there is still one more Masters event to go, taking place this week in Rome immediately following the conclusion of Madrid. Carlos Alcaraz is taking a week off after triumphing at home in front of the Spanish crowd, which means the door could be open for everyone else. Yes, that is what the 19-year-old’s ascension has come to; even the top-ranked players’ title chances in any tournament are dependent on whether or not Alcaraz is in the field. No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, 10-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal, and Madrid runner-up Alexander Zverev are among the contenders.

Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Where: Rome, Italy
Prize money
: 5,415,410 Euros
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Rafael Nadal

With Alcaraz having pulled out, we have another imbalanced draw on our hands. Djokovic and Nadal were in the same half of the Madrid bracket and the story is the same in Rome. At least they don’t have Alcaraz with them this time around!

The rest of the seeded contingent in the top half is unspectacular, but there are plenty of dangerous unseeded floaters who could give the two all-time greats some trouble. Djokovic will begin his week against Aslan Karatsev and potential quarterfinal opponents are fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic and Monte-Carlo runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (who upset the world No. 1 en route to that final). Nadal could face John Isner in round two, Italian hopeful Lorenzo Sonego in the last 16, and either David Goffin, Sebastian Korda, or Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarters. Goffin and Korda came extremely close to beating Nadal in Madrid and Indian Wells, respectively.

Alcaraz’s absence means there is no other top-eight seed in Zverev’s section. But it doesn’t mean the third-ranked German will have an easy time of things. He is likely to open against rising clay-court star Sebastian Baez and there are plenty of other capable clay-courters in the bottom quarter.

Jannik Sinner of Italy carries home hopes on his shoulders. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

Perhaps the most intriguing section is the one that is home to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev. They may be the favorites to reach the quarterfinals, but Jannik Sinner is in stellar form and will be playing at home in what will surely be raucous atmospheres every time he takes the court. Sinner could have an entertaining second-round matchup on his hands against either Dominic Thiem or Fabio Fognini before potentially running into Rublev in the quarters and Tsitsipas in the semis.

Quarterfinal picks: Miomir Kecmanovic over Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal over David Goffin, Jannik Sinner over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Cameron Norrie over Sebastian Baez

Semifinals: Nadal over Kecmanovic and Sinner over Norrie

Final: Nadal over Sinner

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