Rome ATP 1000 Preview Who Needs A Strong Roman Run and Who Needs a Holiday?


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The final clay ATP 1000 event of the season is here, the Rome Masters, and the last chance for many of the pros to get some last week match play and confidence before Roland Garros. However, at the end of a long clay stretch, some players may need more of a Roman holiday than more hours spent sliding in the red stuff. The Tennis Review looks at which players could do with going deep on the dirt and which ones might need to brush themselves down and take a little rest.

In Need of a Deep Run

Andy Murray

The defending champion came back to the tour earlier than his anticipated Madrid comeback from injury so while his results may have been less than befitting of the world No.1, he does, at least, have more match play under his belt than had been expected.

Nevertheless, the Scot lacks the kind of wins needed to boost his confidence at a time he is struggling to re-motivate himself after his exhausting efforts to become the last of the Big Four to become the Big One. Murray was knocked out of his Monte Carlo third round by Albert Ramos Vinolas, lost a tough three setter to Dominic Thiem in the Barcelona semis, and was beaten by Borna Coric in the Madrid round of 32.

That Coric loss was especially worrying for Murray who felt that at least against Thiem he had put up a contest whereas versus Coric he did not change his losing strategy until it was too late.

Murray is going to have to be on his toes from the very first ball in his Rome opener versus Fabio Fognini who has the game to rob you of your rhythm and has been the player to give Nadal the hardest time over his dominant clay season.

If Murray manages Fognini, he could meet the very match fit Munich champion Sascha Zverev in the last 16, and defeating those two back to back would definitely leave him feeling a lot better going into a potential last eight clash with either Milos Raonic or Tomas Berdych, both of whom he matches up well against, before a semi final against whoever emerges from the very open quarter led by that most inconsistent duo of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

The further Murray goes in Rome, the more dangerous he gets, and with a potentially tired Nadal and Thiem losing before the final, tennis fans could be presented with a repeat of last year’s final, Murray versus Djokovic, but one seen from a very  different angle this time, not their best sides as shown off last year, but their less photogenic ones, the ones who suffered early defeats in Melbourne and have yet to play an ATP 1000 final all season, sides which, given the chance could be turned round once again, to show once more the big title winning profile becoming of the world’s very best players.

Novak Djokovic

This will be Djokovic’s second event out on his own, and he can take some comfort from his Madrid run in which he beat Nicolas Amalgro in three sets, Feliciano Lopez in two, and then played Nadal a close second set in his semi-final loss.

Djokovic could face the in form Aljaz Bedene in the second round, and has a tough potential last 16 match versus either Nick Kyrgios, who has beaten him twice this season, Gilles Simon, who came close to beating him in Monte Carlo, Roberto Bautista Agut, who gave him nightmares in Roland Garros last season, or Pablo Carreno Busta who has been going under the radar this season and is ranked seventh in the race to London.

Another early exit or a heavy loss to a rival, which could be on the cards if Nadal and Djokovic meet in the Rome semi as scheduled, will not be too disastrous for the second seed- Roland Garros is a different game altogether with its five set format and the Serbian’s status as defending champion. which is worth a few free points here and there, but the Roland Garros draw could deal Djokovic a tough hand and it would help the defending champ if he could get some confidence boosting wins in Rome before going back to the venue of where he ended a perfect 12 months and started what has turned out to be a sudden and shocking slump.

Kei Nishikori

Nishikori did appear in Madrid after having to pull out of Barcelona, but he withdrew before his match versus Djokovic in the quarters.

The Japanese, who has played just two matches since Miami, is drawn to play the Serbian again in the Rome last eight, and he will do well to get that far with a potential second round versus David Ferrer or Feliciano Lopez and a last 16 versus potentially Juan Martin del Potro, Grigor Dimitrov, Kyle Edmund or Joao Sousa.

Nishikori’s career has been, down to physical injuries and mental struggles, one of stops and starts, but, aged 27, he still has, in the age of tennis players still winning big in their 30s, plenty of time to get going again. A strong run in Rome, if his body and mind can handle it, which looks promising after the seventh seed said in his recent Rome presser his wrist is feeling better and he can hit with more power, would certainly make things easier for him for now, though. The Japanese has a much better clay court game than a grass one, and with his best stretch of the season, the US hard court one, not far off, some strong performances and tightly contested matches in Rome could set him up nicely for Roland Garros and then, fingers crossed, a healthy breakthrough US Summer Swing.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro will play only his second clay court tournament in 2017 in Rome, and the 2009 US Open champion was, once again in 2017, not cut much slack in the draw department, coming up against tenth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who took Dominic Thiem to a final set tiebreaker in Madrid,  in his opener.

Clay is arguably a better surface for del Potro than it is for Dimitrov, whose single handed backhand is vulnerable to attack from as big a forehand as del Potro’s. If the Argentine can pull off the upset, things will not get any easier with Kyle Edmund ,whose forehand is one of the better clay court weapons out there, a possible second round encounter, and then Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer, or Feliciano Lopez in the last sixteen. But for a man who has gone through both professional and personal struggles this year, the prospect of such a draw will not frighten him off, if anything it will spur him on to turn his 2017 around and get it off the ground.

In Need of a Holiday

Rafa Nadal

Nadal heads the ATP Singles Race this week with 4, 735 points, 690 points more than Federer, and 2,650 points more than third placed Dominic Thiem.

That lead comes on the back of three titles and three other finals, a run which has also seen him win his last 15 matches.

At the age of 31 and with arguably the most important slam of his career two weeks away, Nadal might need a bit of rest or risk becoming a victim of his own success on the Roland Garros Clay.

Dominic Thiem

Thiem has cut down on his schedule in 2017, and it has paid off. The Austrian, ranked 7 after his Madrid final appearance, has made an ATP 500 and an ATP 1000 final rather than cleaning up at 250s, getting some valuable big match experience in the process, defeating world No.1 Andy Murray and playing the greatest clay courter of all time in finals before his home crowd.

Thiem does not want to peak though before Roland Garros where he has semi final points to defend. If Thiem is feeling a little fatigued after his finals in Barcelona and Madrid, Pablo Cuevas might be the one to take advantage in a possible replay of their Madrid semi in the Rome last 32.

While that loss would not be what Thiem or his Fans would want, Thiem himself would at least be able to take advantage of some hard earned rest before trying to make the next step in what is proving to be a very promising career.

The Tennis Review


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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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