Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Who will be the Master of Rome?
Tennis moved this week to the historic city of Rome, where the Foro Italico (formerly Foro Mussolini) plays home to the sport’s biggest names.
Foro Italico,the venue for the Rome Masters, is a multi-purpose sports complex, home to numerous sports venues, such as the largest sports facility in Rome, the Stadio Olimpico, the ornate Stadio dei Marmi and the adjoining building which is the seat of the Italian National Olympic Committee (originally built for the purposes of the Fascist Male Academy of Physical Education).
This venue has a tinge of history attached to it as it was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini (literally Mussolini’s Forum) under the design of Enrico Del Debbio, and later, Luigi Moretti. The design is inspired by the Roman forums of the imperial age and often lauded as a preeminent example of Italian Fascist architecture instituted by Mussolini.
The tennis players would no doubt feel like gladiators fighting it out in the Colosseum, the ancient Roman amphitheater in central Rome, 8 kilometers south from here. In their case, the pressure comes as much from within as from the outside, as they fight to smoothen the rough edges in their clay court game. This being the last big event before the French Open at Roland Garros that begins next Sunday, they are eager to get their preparation in shape, and be in prime form before heading to Paris.
With big names like Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Jo Wilfried Tsonga having already been eliminated before the 3rd round, let us look at the draw to see what lies ahead.
Quarter 1 : Rafael Nadal faces a much stiffer test this time as compared to his draw in Madrid.He has already been stretched three sets by both Giles Simon and Mikhail Youzhny in his opening 2 matches. He is up next against Britain’s Andy Murray to decide who goes through from this quarter.
Murray, who turned 27 on Thursday, has had two relatively easy wins over Marcel Granollers and Jurgen Melzer. He will be itching to get past Nadal and go deep into this tournament after a year where he has not been too impressive, troubled by his back, where he had an operation last September.
Prediction : Rafael Nadal
Quarter 2 : Tommy Haas has won against two good opponents, Andreas Seppi and the Monte Carlo winner Stanislas Wawrinka, to get to the quarters. He faces “Baby Federer”, Grigor Dimitrov, in the quarter-finals, who pulled off a big upset evicting 6th seed Tomas Berdych in 3 sets to get to this stage. This should be a close game, and difficult to call, though Haas should get through if he can bring all his experience to the fore.
Prediction : Tommy Haas
Quarter 3 : This quarter has seen the most number of upsets and is wide open for the taking. 4th seed Roger Federer resumed tennis after the birth of his twin sons, but had a poor start, as he lost in his first game after being up a set against Jeremy Chardy. We are sure his twin sons Lenny and Leo would be happy that he comes back early!
13th seeded Fabio Fognini from Italy may have been fancying his chances before his home crowd, but those evaporated when he lost to Lukas Rosol in the first round itself. Rosol himself lost to Ivan Dodig in the next round, and Dodig in turn lost to Chardy in the next.
France’s 11th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost to 8th seeded Milos Raonic, who now remains the only seed in this quarter and would fancy his chances against Chardy.
Prediction : Milos Raonic
Quarter 4 : This is the quarter to watch out for. David Ferrer, as always, remains a favorite on clay and has had convincing wins in his two games so far.
Novak Djokovic did go through in straight sets against Radek Stepanek, but faced a big test against German Philipp Kohlschreiber. Djokovic-Ferrer should be a cracker of a match. I would put my money on Djokovic-Ferrer going the distance, 3 sets, with at least 1 tie-break.
Prediction : Novak Djokovic
Probable Semi-final line-up :
Rafael Nadal v/s Tommy Haas
Milos Raonic v/s Novak Djokovic
Looking at the prowess and ability of Nadal on this surface, as well his record here (he has won the event 7 times), he should get through.
Djokovic has been having concern with his wrist, but even his record on clay suggests he should be the favorite to win against Raonic.
Which sets us up nicely for a Nadal-Djokovic final; the duo have developed an interesting rivalry, and one that is slowly beginning to reach the levels that the Federer-Nadal rivalry saw a few years back.
Djokovic has faced Nadal 40 times, with Nadal holding a slight edge at 22-18. Though past records don’t usually count for much, Djokovic making a comeback after pulling out due to a troubled wrist, and Nadal coming here on the back of a convincing week at the Madrid Masters, one should expect that the balance in the Spaniard’s favour would continue.
(The predictions made by yours truly for Madrid Masters in the article here almost all came out right, with Nadal going on to win his 4th Madrid crown.)
Rome was not built in a day, nor was Nadal’s reputation on clay. This week at Rome, he would look to further cement his claim to be the greatest ever on clay.