© AFP/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal seeks a ninth title in Rome.

Nadal Could Face Thiem In Rome QF Blockbuster

Seventeen of the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings are in the draw

Eight-time Internazionali BNL d’Italia champion Rafael Nadal will not have it easy if he’s to add to his record trophy haul in Rome. The Spaniard could face the only player who has defeated him on clay since 2017, Dominic Thiem, in the quarter-finals.

Seventeen of the Top 20 players in the ATP Rankings are in the final clay-court ATP Masters 1000 draw of the year. Leading the way is World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is going for his fifth triumph at the event, and third seed Roger Federer, who said after his quarter-final loss in Madrid that he will, “probably only decide on the weekend” whether he plays in Rome or not.

View Rome Draw

Nadal and Thiem, both of whom remain alive at the Mutua Madrid Open, have already played once this year on clay, with Thiem prevailing en route to his victory in Barcelona. It is the third consecutive year in which the Austrian has defeated Nadal on the surface, which would make that potential quarter-final a must-see blockbuster.

Nadal & Thiem's Past Five FedEx ATP Head2Head Meetings

 Year  Tournament  Round  Winner  Score
 2019  Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell  SF  Dominic Thiem  6-4, 6-4
 2018  US Open  QF  Rafael Nadal  0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(5)
 2018  Roland Garros  F  Rafael Nadal  6-4, 6-3, 6-2
 2018  Mutua Madrid Open  QF  Dominic Thiem  7-5, 6-3
 2018  Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters  QF  Rafael Nadal  6-0, 6-2

But both players will need to advance to that stage first. After his bye, second-seeded Nadal will play Richard Gasquet or Jeremy Chardy, both of whom are Frenchmen. The first seed Nadal could battle is big-hitting 14th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. Nadal needed four sets to dismiss the Georgian at last year’s US Open.

Thiem will need to navigate through a section of dangerous unseeded players, starting with his opener against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco or Brit Kyle Edmund. Nine-time ATP Tour champion Roberto Bautista Agut is also in Thiem’s section, and the fifth seed could potentially play 11th seed Karen Khachanov in the third round.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic will start his pursuit of a fifth Rome trophy against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov or Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. The Serbian faced Shapovalov en route to his Australian Open triumph earlier this year, but it was not an easy match for the World No. 1. Shapovalov was one of just two players (also Medvedev) to take a set from Djokovic in Melbourne. 

Djokovic could face a familiar clay-court foe in the third round in 16th seed Marco Cecchinato. The Italian defeated Djokovic at Roland Garros last year. Seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro, who played his first tournament since February this week in Madrid, is also in the same quarter.

Third seed Roger Federer, who reached the quarter-finals at the Caja Magica in his first clay-court tournament since 2016 Rome, is slated to face one of the two 2018 Millennium Estoril Open finalists: Portugal’s Joao Sousa or American Frances Tiafoe. He is in the bottom half of the draw with Nadal and Thiem.

Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, who made the final in Rome last year, will play home favourite Matteo Berrettini or Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his opener. The German is in the top half with Djokovic.

Five First-Round Matches To Watch
- No. 12 Daniil Medvedev vs. Nick Kyrgios
- Stan Wawrinka vs. David Goffin
- No. 13 Borna Coric vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime
- No. 10 Fabio Fognini vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- Alex de Minaur vs. No. 16 Marco Cecchinato

Did You Know?
Every Rome champion since 2005 will be in the draw with the exception of 2016 champion Andy Murray, who is recovering from hip surgery.

More stories like this in: