Runner-up last year, Novak Djokovic will try to go a step further at this year’s ATP Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. His second-round opponent, Aslan Karatsev, scored a famous win against him in Belgrade not much more than a year ago. Can Djokovic exact revenge? Who do you think will prevail?
Diego Schwartzman vs Miomir Kecmanovic
Head-to-head: Schwartzman 2-0
Diego Schwartzman lost just eight games in five previous sets against Miomir Kecmanovic. However, the talented Serbian is having the best season of his career in 2022 and it certainly won’t be that easy again. As good as the 22-year-old has been, he can still lack a bit of punch in his baseline game that would help him take the racket out of his opponents’ hands a bit. Is that a problem in the Schwartzman matchup? It could be, but Kecmanovic is also extremely well-prepared physically and should be able to handle extended rallies against the Argentinian. Does that make him the favorite? If so, only slightly.
Prediction: Kecmanovic in 3
Emil Ruusuvuori vs Cristian Garin
Head-to-head: First meeting
Emil Ruusuvuori has been able to pile up clay-court wins more consistently than in previous seasons this year. It’s the Finn’s weakest surface, mostly as his rally tolerance and ability to build up rallies could still use some improvement. Cristian Garin would usually expose that rather handily but the Chilean is just extremely unconvincing this year. While Ruusuvuori lost in the final qualifying round to Sebastian Baez, it feels like that was actually the tougher matchup of the two. Here, he’s got a real chance to win it considering Garin’s lack of form and confidence.
Prediction: Ruusuvuori in 3
Andrey Rublev vs Filip Krajinovic
Andrey Rublev hasn’t gotten close to a big title in 2022 yet, but he’s already racked up three at the 250 and 500 level. The Russian has been incredibly solid, only losing to elite opposition that’s also playing phenomenal tennis this year (Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Taylor Fritz), or players that can perform incredibly well on their day (Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic). He’s simply winning the matches he should win and being very clutch when needed. With Filip Krajinovic not on a hot streak recently, it’s fair to expect the Russian to do it again.
Prediction: Rublev in 2
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev
When Aslan Karatsev defeated Novak Djokovic in Belgrade last year, the Russian was at the peak of his abilities. This has drastically changed this year, especially after winning the Australian swing. Since then, Karatsev has only won three matches. Even here, he struggled mightily against Lloyd Harris in the opening round (came back from 2-5 down in the decider). Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic is clearly returning to form with a semifinal appearance in Madrid. Karatsev can trouble him, we’ve seen it in the past, but he’s simply not the player he was last year at the moment.
Prediction: Djokovic in 2
Main Photo from Getty.