Preview: Federer Faces Early Wake-Up Call For Opener; Nadal, Djokovic In Action
Federer kicks off proceedings at 11am against Portugal's Joao Sousa and defending champion Nadal plays the following match against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. World No. 1 Djokovic, who claimed the Mutua Madrid Open title on Sunday, headlines night session action against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Third-seeded Federer won his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with Sousa on the grass courts of the Gerry Weber Open in 2014. A four-time finalist in Rome, he holds a 32-16 career record at this event. Federer quickly found his clay-court form last week in Madrid by reaching the quarter-finals and holding two match points against Dominic Thiem before losing in three sets. Sousa is looking for his fifth Top 10 win and first on clay.
Djokovic defeated Shapovalov in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting at this year’s Australian Open. The top seed tied Nadal’s record of 33 Masters 1000 titles by prevailing last week in Madrid (d. Tsitsipas) and will have an opportunity to take sole ownership of the record by clinching the title on Sunday. Djokovic, a four-time champion in Rome, would also tie Federer’s “Big Titles” record (54) with another triumph here.
Second seed Nadal begins his quest for a ninth title at the Foro Italico. The defending champion leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Chardy 2-0, but they haven’t faced off in four years. Nadal is still seeking his first title of 2019 after three consecutive semi-final finishes during the European clay swing in Madrid, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The Spaniard hasn’t lost before the quarter-finals in Rome since 2008.
Seventh seed Del Potro had a tough opening-round loss last week in Madrid to Serbian Laslo Djere and his draw doesn’t get any easier this week against Goffin. The Argentine is competing in just his third tournament of the year as he nursed a fractured right kneecap sustained last October at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. Goffin leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 3-1 and the Belgian showed he’s in top form this week with his first-round win over Stan Wawrinka.
Other notable matches on Wednesday’s schedule include fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, sixth-seeded Japanese star Kei Nishikori squaring off with American qualifier Taylor Fritz and a #NextGenATP battle pitting eighth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas against Italian wild card Jannik Sinner.
ORDER OF PLAY - WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2019
CENTRALE start 11:00 am
ATP - Joao Sousa (POR) vs  Roger Federer (SUI)
ATP - Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP -  Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
Not Before 9:00 pm
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
ATP -  Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
ATP - Radu Albot (MDA) vs  Fabio Fognini (ITA)
ATP - David Goffin (BEL) vs  Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
COURT 3 start 11:00 am
ATP -  Raven Klaasen (RSA) / Michael Venus (NZL) vs Matwe Middelkoop (NED) / Gilles Simon (FRA)
Not Before 12:00 noon
ATP - Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs [Q] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
ATP - Kyle Edmund (GBR) / Neal Skupski (GBR) vs  Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Franko Skugor (CRO)
ATP -  Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Marcelo Melo (BRA) vs Jurgen Melzer (AUT) / Dominic Thiem (AUT)
COURT 4 start 11:00 am
2 WTA matches
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP - Karen Khachanov (RUS) / Marc Lopez (ESP) vs  Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA)
ATP -  Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL) / Robert Farah (COL) vs [Alt] Austin Krajicek (USA) / Artem Sitak (NZL)