ITALIAN OPEN: The ATP tour continues on clay with the players taking to Rome for the Italian Open. With tennis’ biggest names set to compete it promises to be an exciting spectacle in the build up to the French Open.

Novak Djokovic – Defending his crown

The reigning champion, World Number One, and arguably the greatest tennis player ever is back in Rome to defend his clay court title. Novak Djokovic won in emphatic style last year without dropping a set for the entirety of the tournament and will be hoping for a similar sequence of events this year.

Djokovic hasn’t had the best time on clay this season having missed out on the Madrid Open, and the Serbian hasn’t won a tournament since his Australian Open victory back in January. He missed out on the Madrid Open through injury, meaning his only clay performances this season have come in the Monte-Carlo Masters and Srpska Open where he was knocked out in the Round of 16 and quarter finals respectively.

Nonetheless, if Djokovic is competing you can always expect to see him in the latter stages. Going up against some of his old foes before he takes on the French Open, he will be looking to gain some much-needed momentum so it would not be surprising to see him go deep into this tournament.

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Rafael Nadal – The King of clay

The clay season is where Rafael Nadal comes in to his own and having missed out on his home nations tournament as he withdrew from the Madrid Open with an injury, he will be hoping to make a strong account of himself in Rome.

Nadal hasn’t exactly had an action-packed season with injuries seriously hindering his opportunities to play.

He has played four matches on the ATP Tour this season, winning just one of them. His last clay court appearance was the 2022 French Open final where he beat Casper Ruud in straight sets.

With the Italian Open taking place just under three weeks before the French Open grand slam, the 14-time Roland-Garros champion will hope that it can provide him with the match practice he needs to put himself in contention for a 15th French Open title. The ‘king of clay’ has a 91.3% win rate on the surface over 519 matches so if there’s anyone who can win this tournament with little to no practice, it’s the man who has already won it 10 times.

Diego Schwartzman – Back for more

Diego Schwartzman is certainly not a household name but when it comes to clay court tennis, he is one of the best on the ATP Tour. The Argentine has a 70% win rate in the French Open, his best of any of the Grand Slams, and he even reached the semi-finals in 2020.

He is no stranger to the Italian Open and finished as the runner up in 2020. After beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the quarter finals he eventually went on to lose to World Number One Novak Djokovic in the final. Schwartzman has his own piece of history in the ATP record books as the shortest man to reach a masters final, standing at 5 feet 7 inches.

With his elite skill sets making him one of the best on this surface, his world ranking of 72 is certainly not reflected on the clay and he will expect to challenge into the later rounds of this tournament and maybe go one better than he did in 2020.

Andy Murray – Return to glory?

Andy Murray has not been at his best for many years now but conformation that he will compete in Rome has certainly excited fans of the former British number one.

Andy Murray’s best performance of this season came when he reached the final of the Dubai Open, but outside of that he has not been able to challenge for any title on the ATP tour in 2023. Murray has found himself knocked out in his first match of both of his clay court tournaments this year, but the Italian Open is a favourable tournament for Murray.

The Scotsman won the Italian Open in 2016, breaking an 11-year streak of Djokovic and Nadal dominance. Despite not being in his best form Murray knows how to win and has done it many times before. There is no doubt he still has immense talent and a good run in Rome could be just what he needs to put himself on track for a successful French Open appearance.


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