ATP Internazionali BNL D’Italia – Monday 14th May until Sunday 20th May 2012

In what was one of the most controversial and talked about events in recent memory on the ATP Tour, it was Roger Federer who adapted best to the much-maligned blue clay courts of Madrid to make it a seventh winning tip for my BETDAQ column. As expected, Rafael Nadal wasn’t able to cope with the conditions that were always likely to prove unfavourable to his overall game and he made his feelings pretty clear towards the tournament organisers and the tournament itself, suggesting if the clay remains blue in 2013, it is unlikely he’ll be returning twelve months from now. Top seed Novak Djokovic also echoed the Spaniard’s sentiments, leaving tournament promoter Ion Tiriac with much to think about.

The week itself was almost a dream event from a tipping perspective with Juan Martin Del Potro making the last four, only to lose concentration at vital points during his semi final defeat to Tomas Berdych. Nevertheless, Federer duly obliged and in doing so moved up to 2nd in the ATP rankings.

With barely time to draw breath, the tour moves from Spain to Italy where a second ATP 1000 event in as many weeks occurs. Indeed some first round matches were taking place and had even been completed in Rome before a ball had been hit in anger between Federer and Berdych back in Madrid. Perhaps the most telling quote ahead of the tournament in the Italian capital is Novak Djokovic describing the traditional red clay the players will be back competing on this week as ‘paradise’ and I can see this event being one that very much returns to the status quo.

Admittedly an unoriginal selection, I cannot see past yet another predictable clay court victory for Rafael Nadal. Five times a winner in Rome, Nadal will be keen to prove a point this week back on the customary red stuff. I’d typically fancy ‘Rafa’ in pretty much any clay court event at present (last week being the exception) and with question marks over the trio of players who may be able to give him a game on the dirt, I’d be inclined to think the case for him winning this week is as watertight as one gets.

Coming off the back of a tournament win, there’s a chance Federer could feel the effects of fatigue from last week and Sunday’s final was possibly more psychologically taxing than many might have imagined. He also doesn’t have the greatest record in Italy having never won the event and I’d be surprised if he was able to go back-to-back this week. Djokovic on the other hand may benefit from an early exit in Madrid as he’ll have ample time to recuperate. My concern with backing Djokovic at the moment is that the feeling of invincibility just doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was in 2011. Couple this with Nadal seeming to have the measure of the Serbian on clay at the moment following his demolition job in Monte Carlo, and the proposition of backing Djokovic this week is not an attractive one.

Andy Murray will arguably be the freshest player in the draw this week having taken last week off, citing a back injury as the reason. His draw isn’t the greatest however. He’s likely to face either David Nalbandian or Spanish qualifier Albert Ramos in round 2 (Murray receives a bye through round one) and it has to be said that neither of those would be considered an ideal opponent for Murray. Should he advance through to the latter stages of the event, he’d likely have to beat Gasquet and Ferrer before an almost certain semi final meeting with Nadal.

To further strengthen Nadal’s case, Milos Raonic has been eliminated as I write this by plucky German Florian Mayer and the big-serving Canadian truly would have been a test for the Spaniard, as I’m sure Roger Federer would certainly confirm. As it is, Nadal’s quarter of the draw is littered with seeded players that Nadal has the beating of in Almagro, Lopez, and Berdych.

In conclusion, Nadal will take all the beating this week and I’ll be reinvesting some of my Federer winnings on him making it a sixth title in Italy

Selection – Rafael Nadal

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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