Preview: Alcaraz Set For Rome Debut
Top 5 stars Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas headline the Saturday action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, with all three set to begin their campaigns at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Second-round singles play will be complete by the end of Day 4 in the Rome main draw, with the field to be narrowed to 32.
Medvedev will be in action on Court Pietrangeli, where Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev will also compete. Three Italians join Alcaraz on the centre court slate, with Lorenzo Sonego meeting 25th seed Yoshihito Nishioka in the afternoon before countrymen Lorenzo Musetti and Matteo Arnaldi square off to cap the evening session.
 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
By simply taking the court and making his Rome debut, Carlos Alcaraz will guarantee himself a return to No. 1 in the next edition Peppersone ATP Rankings. But the Spaniard no doubt has his sights set on a third straight ATP Tour title after completing a second consecutive Spanish double across Barcelona and Madrid.
A title run for Alcaraz in his Rome debut could go through top seed Novak Djokovic in the final. While that potential matchup would be a fitting conclusion at the first event in 2023 in which both players are competing, Alcaraz will first turn his attention to countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Saturday.
Alcaraz owns a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against his fellow Spaniard, including his very first ATP Tour win, earned in a third-set tie-break in Rio de Janeiro in 2020.
"It was a really good match for me, my first ATP win against him," recalled the 20-year-old. "But that was a long time ago. After that I played [him] a few times more. It was really tough. I would say it's a good first round for me. I have to play well to get through. Let's see. I'm going to enjoy my first match here. Obviously here it's such a nice place to be, to play, to enjoy the Italian fans. It's always great to play in front [of them]. I'm going to enjoy that moment."
Ramos-Vinolas came back from a set down to knock out Italian Francesco Passaro in the Rome opening round and will hope to carry that momentum into his showdown against Alcaraz.
 Daniil Medvedev vs. Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN)
Emil Ruusuvuori nearly knocked out Alcaraz in his previous tournament, leading the Spaniard by a set as he put on a power tennis clinic in Madrid. While he fell just short on that occasion, he will have another opportunity for a big upset in Rome against Medvedev.
Just like in Madrid, the Finn advanced to the second round by beating Ugo Humbert, this time in a third-set tie-break. But that's where the similarities may end.
The matchup against Medvedev is very different from the one against Alcaraz, who was at home on the red clay of Spain. Medvedev has never made a secret of his struggles on the dirt, though he compiled a 4-2 record across Monte-Carlo and Madrid as he continues to work on his clay-court game.
Medvedev said that he feels great physically entering Rome, and he explained some of his efforts to adapt to the clay in recent weeks.
“[Playing with] some more spin,” Medvedev said in his pre-tournament press conference. “Especially the sliding, I think the sliding was always a problem [for me]. After Madrid, after I lost, a couple days I practised there, I tried to focus on the sliding, on the movement. I felt like I improved in these couple of days.”
(5) Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Nuno Borges (POR)
While Tsitsipas is still seeking his first title of 2023, he reached the final last month in Barcelona to match his run to the title match at the Australian Open earlier in the season. Tsitsipas bookended his Barcelona run with quarter-finals in both Monte-Carlo and Madrid, and will once again be among the favourites at the year's third clay-court ATP Masters 1000.
After being upset by German lucky loser (and eventual finalist) Jan-Lennard Struff in Madrid, Tsitsipas will be on red alert in Rome against Portugal's Nuno Borges. The 26-year-old holds a 4-8 record so far in 2023 but beat Dusan Lajovic decisively in the Rome opening round, 6-4, 6-1.
Tsitsipas is 23-7 on the season, his 23 tour-level victories tied for fifth-most in 2023. But the Greek is the only player with at least 20 wins not to win a title this season. He could rectify that by winning his first Rome title — and ATP Tour title No. 10 — in just more than one week's time.
Also In Action...
Saturday will be a big day for Italian men's tennis in Rome. In addition to Sonego vs. Nishioka and Musetti vs. Arnaldi on centre court, home favourite Marco Cecchinato will take on 21st seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the grandstand. Two all-Italian men's doubles teams will also be in action: Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini face Austrians Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler, while wild cards Federico Arnaboldi and Gianmarco Ferrari play seventh seeds Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden.
Court 12 will see three American men compete: J.J. Wolf takes on 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz, 12th seed Frances Tiafoe meets German qualifier Daniel Altmaier and ninth seed Taylor Fritz faces another German qualifier in Yannick Hanfmann.
In other doubles action, top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski open their campaign against Matwe Middelkoop and Andreas Mies while second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury take on Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni.