Note: Please excuse any potential slight issues to our appearance as our site is currently undergoing maintenance. Also, make sure to look at out brand new message boards.
The Italian Open, moved from its usual spot in the calendar to the autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic, will begin on Monday. A number of star names have made the trip to Rome for this crucial warm-up event ahead of the French Open, which gets underway in the last week of September. That includes Rafael Nadal, who will be playing his first tournament since February’s Mexico Open, having elected not to travel to the US for the Cincinnati Masters and the US Open.
But he faces a potentially tough test up against his countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, who arrives at the Italian Open in fine form. In New York, he first won the doubles title at the Cincinnati Masters playing with Alex de Minaur and he backed that up by reaching the semifinals at the US Open, where he lost in five sets to Alexander Zverev. Stefanos Tsitsipas, always a dangerous opponent despite a difficult return to action after the restart in the US, is also in Nadal’s half of the draw.
But the Spaniard has reasons to feel confident heading into the Italian Open this year. He has won the title at the Foro Italico nine times and has won his last ten matches in Rome, claiming back-to-back titles. It would certainly be a surprise to see him fail to add to the 13 victories he has picked up on tour so far in 2020. But top seed and world #1 Novak Djokovic will surely have a point to prove in Rome after his ignominious exit at the US Open.
The Serbian, who like Nadal has received a first-round bye at the Italian Open, will open his campaign against either Salvatore Caruso or a qualifier. In the third round, he could face the in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime, who impressed in reaching the fourth round at the US Open. The veterans Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka, who famously beat Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final, are also in his section of the draw, which is packed with talent.
There is also plenty of Italian interest in the draw this season. Leading the way is Matteo Berrettini, with the top-ranked Italian arriving at his home tournament after a fourth-round showing at the US Open. However, he finds himself in a loaded section of the draw, with David Goffin, Karen Khachanov and Cristian Garin all lurking. Fabio Fognini may have a better chance of manufacturing a deep run at the Italian Open, although he is seeded to face Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.
In the women’s draw, six of the top 10 are set to join the fray, including Simona Halep. The world #2 has established herself as a force on all three surfaces in recent years, as evidenced by her triumph at Wimbledon last season. But she is still most at home on the clay and will surely be targeting a deep run in Rome. She is set to open her campaign against either the struggling Anastasija Sevastova or home hope Jasmine Paolini.
Elina Svitolina is also making a return to action. The Ukrainian has enjoyed some of the finest moments of her career on the clay in Rome, twice winning the Italian Open. But she faces a potentially treacherous path to the title, with Kiki Bertens her most likely quarterfinal opponent. 16th seed Donna Vekic, meanwhile, is set to face the USA’s Amanda Anisimova in what is surely one of the matches of the first round. The winner will go on to face either Dayana Yastremska or Camila Giorgi.
Former-French Open Garbine Muguruza is set to face Sloane Stephens in the first round, with the American having found some form at the US Open, where she reached the third round, losing to Serena Williams. Ons Jabeur will face Coco Gauff in what should be a thriller, whilst US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka is set to face Venus Williams, although it may be tough for the Belarusian to adapt so quickly to a change in surface.
Embed from Getty Images