Scouting Report: 10 Things To Watch In Rome
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
The trio of clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments wraps up this week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. One year ago, Alexander Zverev became the first player born in the 1990s to capture a Masters 1000 trophy. There will be plenty of competition attempting to prevent him from retaining that title. Eighteen of the Top 20 players in the ATP Rankings are competing, with Rafael Nadal, who is seeking a record eighth title in Rome, leading the way.
1) Rafa’s Record: Although he will fall to No. 2 in the ATP Rankings on Monday, Nadal can climb back to the top spot to start a sixth stint as World No. 1 on 21 May if he captures a record eighth Rome championship. His closest competitor in Rome titles is Djokovic, who owns four. Nadal is 14-1 in matches and 30-2 in sets on clay this year, including his 11th titles in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona.
2) Comeback Trail: Djokovic is 6-6 in 2018 and seeking his first quarter-final of the season as he continues his comeback from a right elbow injury. The former World No. 1 is responsible for 19 per cent of Nadal’s losses on clay, earning three of seven FedEx ATP Head2Head clay-court victories over his Spanish rival in Rome.
3) Mastering 1000s: Zverev, the World No. 3, won ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Rome and Montreal in 2017, then reached another final in Miami this year, all before his 21st birthday on 20 April. He has a chance to become the fifth active player to lift three Masters 1000 trophies on Sunday in Madrid, as he faces clay stalwart Dominic Thiem.
4) Clay Phenom: After Thiem beat Nadal in the 2017 Rome quarter-finals, the Spaniard swept his next 21 matches and 50 sets on clay. Thiem ended both streaks in the Madrid quarter-finals on 11 May and could meet Nadal again in the Rome quarter-finals on 18 May. Thiem (3), who seeks his maiden Masters 1000 triumph Sunday in Madrid, is one of three men with three wins over Nadal on clay, joining Djokovic (7) and Gaston Gaudio (3).
5) Wawrinka Returns: Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka returns to the ATP World Tour this week for his first match since 22 February in Marseille. Wawrinka continues his comeback from a left knee injury. He reached his first Masters 1000 final at Rome in 2008.
6) No. 1 Contender: World No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro is 22-5 in 2018, highlighted by his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells, where he saved three championship points to defeat then-No. 1 Roger Federer. Del Potro seeks his first semi-final in Rome and first on clay since 2012 Madrid.
7) Bigger is Better: World No. 8 Kevin Anderson and No. 9 John Isner are at career-high ATP Rankings following stellar starts to their respective seasons. The 6'8" Anderson reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final last week in Madrid after winning his fourth ATP World Tour title in New York. The 6'10" Isner defeated Del Potro and Zverev to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami.
8) Shapo Shining: #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov arrived at the Mutua Madrid Open without an ATP World Tour clay-court win. Yet, the left-handed phenom advanced to the semi-finals, his second run that deep into a Masters 1000 event. Shapovalov faces a stiff test in his Rome opener against No. 15 seed Tomas Berdych.
9) 40-Love: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who turned 40 on 29 April, are in position to become the oldest World No. 1s in ATP Doubles Rankings history (since 1976). They can do so by winning the Madrid title on Sunday. The player who currently holds the record, Canadian Daniel Nestor, is not competing. However, he has triumphed in Rome on four occasions.
10) Hometown Wild Cards: All four wild cards in Rome are Italian — Matteo Berrettini (0-1), Marco Cecchinato (0-2) and Lorenzo Sonego (0-1) all seek their first victory at the event, while veteran Andreas Seppi made the quarter-finals in 2012 (l. to Federer).