The second of back-to-back Masters 1000 events, the Italian Open in Rome is one of the top clay events on tour. As usual, Rafael Nadal has dominated the event in the past with seven titles in the last nine years, only Novak Djokovic winning otherwise in that time period. Like Madrid, the event also hosts a WTA event the same week.
Check out the Full Draw: ATP Rome Masters 2014 Draw
In defence of his title, Nadal will be happy to see that he has drawn Andy Murray of the 5-8 seeds in the draw. Nadal opens his tournament against the winner of Gilles Simon and Filippo Volandri. Volandri’s finest week came at this tournament in 2007 when he beat Gasquet, Federer and Berdych on his way to the semi finals. He is 0-3 against opponent Gilles Simon and has gone 1-7 on the main tour clay this year. Fernando Verdasco plays a qualifier which could include Santiago Giraldo and Sam Querrey. 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny has struggled this year but should get his second clay win of the year against Nicolas Mahut.
Jurgen Melzer‘s return from injury has been so-so, going 3-4 on the year. He opens against John Isner, whom he is 2-1 against but all meetings have been on hard. The Austrian often deals well with big servers so could spring a shock if Isner has a bad day. Marin Cilic plays a qualifier while Murray faces the winner of an all-Spaniard clash between Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers. It was last year at the event when Murray retired after winning the second set in what turned out to be his last clay event of the year.
Stanislas Wawrinka crashed back down to earth, losing in three sets to the highly talented Dominic Thiem after his Monte Carlo title. Wawrinka impressed in Monaco and he should see himself back in the semi finals this week. Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier is first up while another Italian wildcard in Marco Cecchinato plays Igor Sijsling. Cecchinato notably took a set off Fabio Fognini in Nice last year but spends the majority of his time at Challenger level. Tommy Haas will be hoping to avoid a third straight surprise loss this year when he faces Andreas Seppi. He defeated the Italian in three sets in Munich a few weeks back.
Grigor Dimitrov lost in three sets to Tomas Berdych in Madrid last week but will have the chance for instant revenge in a potential third round clash. Edouard Roger Vasselin is up first for the Bulgarian who will then face the winner of Ivo Karlovic and a qualifier, which looks a prime spot for the qualifier to take a victory. Berdych made it 1-2 against Dimitrov with victory last week and to have a chance of tying it up he first needs to beat the winner of Dmitry Tursunov and Roberto Bautista-Agut. Bautista-Agut made the semi finals in Madrid, making the top 30 in the process.
Another of the wild cards in Simone Bolelli is fortunate to draw a wildcard but unfortunately Milos Raonic awaits the winner of that clash. Raonic was just edged out in a tough two setter last week by Madrid finalist Kei Nishikori, losing both sets in the tiebreak. Kevin Anderson will hope to improve on his 1-3 record on clay this year when he plays Vasek Pospisil while the clash between Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga promises a lot in terms of entertaining tennis. Despite being the unseeded player, Dolgopolov will likely be favoured going into this given his form this year. The Ukranian is 3-2 against Tsonga and won their only match on clay.
Roger Federer skipped Madrid due to the arrival of a second set of twins in his family but returns this week to defend his title from last year. He lost easily to Nadal there and can only face the Spaniard in a final should they get there. He opens with the winner of a Jeremy Chardy/Robin Haase clash while the other seed in his section is Fabio Fognini. Fognini found himself at the centre of controversy once more in Madrid, with a meltdown that was much more common for the Italian in the past few years. Fognini plays Lukas Rosol in round one, looking to extend the head to head to 2-0. The winner faces Federico Delbonis or Ivan Dodig in round two.
Novak Djokovic withdrew from Madrid due to his ongoing wrist issues but is still scheduled to play this event. His opening round against the winner of Pablo Andujar and Radek Stepanek will be just his fifth of the season on clay as he continues to prepare for the French Open. He lost at the quarter final stage last year and so can gain some ground on Nadal in the race for No.1 with a title this year. 16th seed Tommy Robredo plays Juan Monaco for the first time since 2009, looking to tie the head to head up at 3. The winner faces Jerzy Janowicz or Philipp Kohlschreiber. Janowicz needs to have a good tournament with quarter final points to defend but his early struggles this year suggests that it is unlikely with a 6-9 year to date record.
David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori faced off in an epic semi final on Saturday in Madrid and could face each other again in Rome, but this time at the third round stage. Ferrer needs to beat the winner of Mikhail Kukushkin and Joao Sousa to get that far while Nishikori has a much tougher task if he has anything left in the tank after his exertions in Madrid. A first round clash with Ernests Gulbis is the pick of the tournament with Nishikori currently leading the head to head 2-0. The winner will face a qualifier in round two.
SF: Rafael Nadal def. Stanislas Wawrinka
SF: Novak Djokovic def. Roger Federer
F: Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic