The final clay court Masters 1,000 event gets underway in the Rome this week, and the Day 3 schedule includes an intriguing encounter between Grigor Dimitrov and in form Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Elsewhere, there is the the return of in-form Briton Cameron Norrie, who was forced to withdraw from Madrid, having sustained an injury during his run to the final in Estoril. As ever, we here at LWOT will be offering our predictions for every match on the slate, including Aslan Karatsev vs Daniil Medvedev and Taylor Fritz vs Novak Djokovic. But who will advance?
ATP Rome Masters Day 3 Predictions
Federico Delbonis vs David Goffin
Head to Head: 1-0 Goffin
David Goffin made a solid start to his clay court season by reaching the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo last month. The Belgian had to come through a tough opening round match against Marin Cilic that week, before recording wins over Marco Cecchinato and Alexander Zverev before falling to the British number 1 Dan Evans. Unfortunately, in Barcelona, Goffin was forced to withdraw against Cameron Norrie in the second round and missed the Madrid Open last week. However, despite not being at his vintage best in his opening round win over Salvatore Caruso on Sunday, Goffin is always a threat on the clay and will be looking to build momentum heading into Roland Garros.
Federico Delbonis will not be an easy opponent for Goffin. The Argentine has built some momentum in recent weeks defeating home favourite Dusan Lajovic in Belgrade, recording a remarkable come-from-behind win against Pablo Carreno Busta in Madrid and followed that up with a straight sets win over Estoril champion Albert Ramos Vinolas. The Argentine came through qualifying this weekend, defeating Frances Tiafoe in his final qualifying match, and in the opening round, he came from a set down to defeat Karen Khachanov, with the Russian winning only seven points in the decider.
The Belgian’s came is easier on the eye and he possesses one of the best backhands on the ATP Tour, with the ability to change direction effectively. Delbonis has one of the most unconventional serves, but it can be effective and he is a great mover on the clay. However, I think the Belgian is more consistent and his ground-strokes are less likely to break down from the back of the court. I’m predicting a tight straight sets win for the Belgian.
Prediction: Goffin in 2
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs Grigor Dimitrov
Head to Head: First Meeting
This is one of the most intriguing matches from the top half of the draw. The Spaniard has had a successful clay court season so far, reaching his first Masters 1,000 quarterfinal in Monte Carlo. Davidovich Fokina also recorded his first top 10 victory that week, defeating Matteo Berrettini in the second round. Despite losing in the first round in Barcelona, the Spaniard immediately picked up his form again, reaching the semifinals in Estoril. Davidovich Fokina lost a hard-fought three0set match with Daniil Medvedev last week in Madrid, and he will be looking to continue to build confidence heading into Roland Garros.
Grigor Dimitrov has had a somewhat difficult clay court season, although it began with a strong opening round win over Jeremy Chardy in Monte Carlo. However, the Bulgarian had a disastrous defeat against Rafael Nadal. He claimed a tooth problem prevented him from producing a high level of tennis. Last week in Madrid, he suffered disappointing defeat, in the opening round at the hands of in-form South African Lloyd Harris.
The is the first time the pair have met. I think Davidovich Fokina has the upper hand and will be full of hunger and confidence. It is difficult to gauge where Dimitrov is mentally, but I think the Spaniard will have too much for the Bulgarian. Davidovich Fokina wins in straight sets.
Prediction: Davidovich Fokina in 2
Roberto Carballes Baena vs Cameron Norrie
Head to Head 1-0 Carballes Baena
Cameron Norrie has been one of the most impressive players on the ATP Tour this season. The Brit was very close to winning his first ATP career title at the Estoril Open, but lost an agonizing final set tiebreak to Albert Ramos Vinolas. Despite not having a major weapon in his game, Norrie is one of the best movers on tour. He generates a high amount of topspin on the forehand side, which is high effective at pinning opponents to the back of the court. In contrast, he is able to flatten his backhand, which makes for good variety and gives him an offensive option.
Roberto Carballes Baena is never to be underestimated on this surface. The Spaniard defeated Denis Shapovalov at Roland Garros last year, and this season won the Belgrade Challenger. However, at tour level, his best result on the surface came back in March at the Chile Open, where he reached the quarterfinals. Recently, he lost in his opening round matches of Belgrade and Estoril, and failed to come through qualifying for Madrid.
Even though the Spaniard leads the head to head, Norrie is in far better form and had a good win in the final round of qualifying over Marco Cecchinato. I think his game has more variety to trouble the Spaniard. The Brit will get the win in straight sets.
Prediction: Norrie in 2
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Kei Nishikori
Head to Head: 1-1
Kei Nishikori has shown glimpses of returning to his best form this season after suffering numerous injuries. This clay court season, though, he has been unfortunate in having difficult draws. In Barcelona, the Japanese player had a couple of impressive wins over Guido Pella and Cristian Garin before succumbing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in three sets. It was a similar story last week in Madrid, where Nishikori had a good win over Karen Khachanov in the opening round before being defeated by the eventual champion Alexander Zverev in straight sets. Nishikori had another tough opening round on Monday against the always unpredictable Fabio Fognini, but Nishikori arguably played his best match of the year so far, winning in straight sets.
In Pablo Carreno Busta, Nishikori has another tough test. Although not renowned for his clay-court tennis, the Spaniard has won a clay title this season in Andalucia. The Spaniard also reached the semifinals in Barcelona. However, he had a shocking opening round defeat in Madrid against Federico Delbonis, where he blew a 4-0 lead in the second set after winning the first. The Spaniard reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last year, so he will be looking to regain his confidence heading into the second Grand Slam of the year.
This will be a match with many long rallies, and despite having similar game-styles, I am giving Nishikori the edge. He is slowly regaining confidence and form and is the better returner of the pair. I think he will win in three tight sets.
Prediction: Nishikori in 3
Main Photo from Getty.