It’s time for this year’s first ATP Masters 1000 on clay and judging by the draw, it’s going to be extremely exciting in Rome. As ever, we here at LWOT will be bringing you all of the action, as well as offering our predictions for every match on day one in Italy, including Taylor Fritz vs Stefano Travaglia, Borna Coric vs Cristian Garin and Dominik Koepfer vs Mikhail Kukushkin.
ATP Rome Masters Day 1 Predictions
Grigor Dimitrov vs Gianluca Mager
Head to head – First Meeting
Grigor Dimitrov wouldn’t be relishing the fact facing Gianluca Mager in a tricky first-round encounter. The Italian surprised many by reaching the finals in Rio earlier this year taking out Dominic Thiem on the way. That shows Mager can be dangerous on his day and Dimitrov would definitely be wary of that.
This match-up could turn out to be very interesting if Mager can take the attack to Dimitrov. Of course, that’s easier said than done against the experienced Bulgarian. Dimitrov is an excellent mover on clay and if he can serve well consistently, it should be somewhat of an upset if Mager wins. Expect Dimitrov to dominate the baseline rallies with his forehand and defend superiorly off his one-hander, although Mager could make it interesting for a set.
Prediction: Dimitrov in 3
Karen Khachanov vs Casper Ruud
Head to head – First Meeting
Another first-round match that’s a must watch. Casper Ruud has already won a title on clay this year at Buenos Aires and the Norwegian plays his best tennis on clay. Ruud hits his groundstrokes with some power and his movement around the red dirt is not too bad either.
The transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay in Rome will make this match pretty unpredictable for both players, and the one who finds his feet quickly may well go on to win. Karen Khachanov would’ve certainly liked an easier first round but with a jam-packed draw such as this, those are very hard to find. Expect a lengthy first encounter between the two as both players go toe to toe with each other from the baseline. This should be a pretty even matchup with the Russian just clinching it as he’ll be slightly more confident going for broke in the bigger moments of this match.
Prediction: Khachanov in 3
Kei Nishikori vs Albert Ramos Vinolas
Head to head – Nishikori 4-1 Ramos Vinolas
Kei Nishikori didn’t have the best of starts to his clay-court campaign, bowing out in the first-round in Kitzbuhel to eventual champion Miomir Kecmanovic. Lucky for him, his first-round opponent here, Albert Ramos Vinolas, also lost in the first round in Kitzbuhel to Laslo Djere. Neither player can bank on any match form to rely on.
The Japanese leads the head-to-head 4-1, but their last meeting came way back in 2016. And, of course, the Spaniard is still a very potent clay courter. Ramos Vinolas is a tricky opponent for anyone on the red dirt, and expect a lot of forehands from the Spaniard to push Nishikori back. That being said, Nishikori has one of the best baseline games on the tour, and his backhand is right up there with the best. It’s only a matter of time before Nishikori finds his baseline game, so expect him to start doing that against Ramos-Vinolas. Expect Nishikori to take time away from the Spaniard by relentlessly taking his shots extremely early.
Prediction: Nishikori in 2
Main Photo from Getty.