Friday, May 06, 2016

Rome Preview: Nadal, Djokovic in same quarter, Federer in the mix with a tough draw

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are on a quarter-final collision course at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, set to begin on Sunday in Rome.

Between them, Djokovic and Nadal have won the past 11 editions of this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, held at the Foro Italico. Since 2005, Nadal has lifted the trophy seven times, with Djokovic winning the trophy the past two years to add to his successes in 2008 and 2011

In what is arguably the toughest quarter of the draw, the 28-year-old Djokovic will open his campaign against a qualifier and in the third round could face 14th seed Gael Monfils, who has made a career-best start to the season. Nadal is set to meet either Munich champion Philipp Kohlschreiber or a qualifier in his first match and then could come up against 10th seed Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios.

Third seed Roger Federer is also slated in the top half of the draw as the Swiss looks to make a successful return to action after being forced out of Madrid with a back injury. The 34-year-old Federer is looking to claim the elusive Rome crown, having finished runner-up four times, most recently last year against Djokovic.

Federer faces a tough opening test against either Grigor Dimitrov or Next Generation star Alexander Zverev. Possible third-round opponents for Federer include Dominic Thiem, winner of 29 matches thus far in 2016, or Joao Sousa, who gave Nadal a stern test in the Madrid quarter-finals on Friday.

Sixth seed Kei Nishikori rounds out the top half of the draw. The Japanese, who is through to the Madrid semi-finals this weekend, is set to face Teymuraz Gabashvili or Viktor Troicki in the second round before a potential clash with 11th seed Richard Gasquet.

Second seed Andy Murray headlines the bottom half of the draw. The Scot is still in contention in Madrid, where he faces Nadal in the semi-finals on Saturday in the hopes of winning his first title of the season this week. Murray defeated Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals on Friday and is again pitted in the same quarter as the Czech in Rome.

But first, Murray will open against either Next Generation star Borna Coric or a qualifier, before the possibility of Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round. Berdych begins against Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Sam Querrey and could meet Jack Sock or David Goffin in the third round.

Reigning Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka is looking to find his form after early exits in Monte-Carlo and Madrid. The fourth-seeded Swiss, who reached the Rome final in 2008 (l. to Djokovic), facesBenoit Paire or Bernard Tomic after a first-round bye and is seeded to meet No. 16 Kevin Anderson in the third round, though the South African opens against Feliciano Lopez.

No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 David Ferrer are potential quarter-final opponents for Wawrinka.

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