Carlos Alcaraz (L) and Novak Djokovic will be among the favorites to win the 2022 Italian Open.
The 2022 Madrid Open is yet to be concluded, but the focus is slowly shifting to the next tournament of the clay season, the Italian Open, which is set to begin on Sunday. The Masters 1000 event is the final stop for quite a few players to get some much-needed prep ahead of Roland Garros.
Most of the top players on the men’s side will be present in Rome. Former World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and 2022 Indian Wells Open champion Taylor Fritz are among the notable absentees. All three players are still recovering from their respective injuries.
Rafael Nadal, the defending champion and most successful player in the history of the Italian Open, returns to the Foro Italico in search of a record-breaking 11th title. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has enjoyed considerable success in Rome, and the Serb will fancy his chances of winning a sixth title here.
There are also several young guns hot on the tails of the two veterans. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev have already established themselves as title contenders and recent months have seen Carlos Alcaraz also enter the mix. The teenager’s immense success this year has been incredible to witness.
Jannik Sinner, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime are also waiting in the wings to prove themselves and snatch a big title for themselves.
With plenty of big names and familiar faces ready for a showdown in Rome, here’s a look at the favorites for the title:
#5 Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev at the 2021 Italian Open.
Way back in 2017, a young Alexander Zverev had his breakthrough campaign at the Italian Open. He won his first Masters 1000 title by defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final. The next year, he almost won back-to-back titles, but lost to Rafael Nadal in the final.
Zverev has had a pretty good clay season so far this year. He reached the semifinals in Monte-Carlo, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets. The German was then upset by Holger Rune in the second round of the BMW Open in Munich.
Zverev, who is the defending champion at the Madrid Open, has reached the semifinals of this year’s tournament. He’ll take on Tsitsipas yet again for a spot in the final.
Zverev shouldn’t face much trouble in the initial rounds in Rome, but the in-form Carlos Alcaraz is in his section of the draw. He could meet the teenager in the quarterfinals. The German has won their previous two encounters, but it could be extremely difficult to repeat that feat this time around.
Zverev could then meet Tsitsipas in the last four yet again, followed by a showdown against either Djokovic or Nadal for the title. He’s beaten the big guys in the past and could do it once again if he’s plays at a high level.
#4 Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal at the 2021 Italian Open.
Usually, the King of Clay would be the frontrunner to win the title in Rome, but things are a little different this time around.
Rafael Nadal returned to action at the Madrid Open after an injury layoff. He won against Miomir Kecmanovic quite easily in the second round, but needed to fight tooth and nail to get over the finish line against David Goffin.
Nadal was leading comfortably and held two match points in the second set, but was taken to a third set by Goffin. The Spaniard saved four match points in the final set tie-break to win the match. He then lost to Carlos Alcaraz in three sets in the quarterfinals.
Nadal will enter Rome as the defending champion, but his road to an 11th title is quite tricky. He could meet Denis Shapovalov in the third round, followed by Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals. Djokovic could potentially await him in the semifinals.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion has gone through several situations like this in the past and has come out on top. He could do so yet again to triumph at the Italian Open.
#3 Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2021 Italian Open.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has evolved into one of the best players on clay over the last couple of years. He kicked off his clay season this year by successfully defending his title at the Monte-Carlo Masters, dropping just one set en route to the title.
Tsitsipas lost to Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open after that. At the Madrid Open, he has continued his fine run of form to reach the semifinals, where he’s up against Zverev.
The Greek reached the quarterfinals of the Italian Open last year, losing a closely fought three-set contest against Djokovic.
Given his current form, Tsitsipas should be able to reach at least the semifinals in Rome this time around. He could meet Alcaraz in the last four and is yet to win a match against the teenager. The World No. 5 will need to attempt something different if he wants to best the Spanish youngster and go further into the tournament.
#2 Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz at the 2022 Madrid Open.
Carlos Alcaraz has taken the world by storm with his brilliant results this year.
At the Monte-Carlo Masters, he was knocked out by Sebastian Korda in the opening round. He didn’t let the setback affect him, and immediately won the Barcelona Open after that.
At the Madrid Open, Alcaraz scored his first win over his idol Nadal. He defeated the former World No. 1 in three sets to proceed to the semifinals, where he’ll take on Djokovic for a place in the title round.
Alcaraz will be making his debut at the Italian Open this year and will be a leading contender to lift the trophy next week given how he has played so far.
#1 Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Italian Open.
After a couple of months on the sidelines due to vaccine mandates, Novak Djokovic returned to action at the Dubai Tennis Championships. He made it to the quarterfinals before falling in straight sets to Jiri Vesely.
Djokovic then participated in the Monte-Carlo Masters. After a first-round bye, he lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in three sets in the second round.
He fared a bit better at the Serbia Open, where he finished as the runner-up. Interestingly, all of his matches were three-set affairs. At the Madrid Open, he’s made it to the semifinals, where he’ll lock horns with teen phenom Alcaraz for a spot in the final.
Djokovic has been one of the most successful players at the Italian Open. He never lost prior to the quarterfinals here and has notched up a 59-10 record. With five titles and six runner-up finishes, the Serb has always been a threat to do well here.
He’s got Nadal in his half of the draw, but if manages to subdue the Spaniard, the title just might be his.