Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Italian Open.
The 2022 Madrid Open champion is yet to be crowned, but the clay season marches on as the men are set to compete at the Italian Open next week.
Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, will return to Rome aiming to win a record-extending 11th title. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has also found considerable success at the venue, with five titles and six runner-up finishes.
Top 10 players Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini, along with World No. 13 Taylor Fritz, are the only ones skipping the tournament as they’re dealing with injuries. World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, Nadal and 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas round up the top four seeds.
Teen phenom Carlos Alcaraz will be looking to continue his fine run of form at the Italian Open as well. The youngster has hardly missed a beat this year as he continues to distinguish himself as an elite player on the tour. Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime have also been playing well and the duo will be eager to snatch a big title for themselves.
Casper Ruud, who has had some great results on clay in the past, has struggled over the last couple of weeks. The Norwegian will be aiming to finally find his footing ahead of Roland Garros. Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz are other players to watch out for and have been in fine form as well. On that note, let’s take a look at how the draw could unfold over the next few days.
First Quarter: Novak Djokovic aiming for a sixth title at the Italian Open
Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Italian Open.
Seeded players: (1) Novak Djokovic, (8) Felix Auger-Aliassime, (12) Diego Schwartzman and (14) Reilly Opelka
Expected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Dark horse: Miomir Kecmanovic
Analysis: Novak Djokovic returns to one of his favorite hunting grounds. He has never lost prior to the quarterfinals at the Italian Open and has amassed a 59-10 record. The World No. 1 started off his clay season with a tough three-set loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Djokovic, while still far from his best, managed to reach the final of the Serbia Open the following week. He needed three sets to get past all of his opponents and lost to Andrey Rublev in the final in three sets as well. He’s currently in the semifinals of the Madrid Open and will take on Carlos Alcaraz for a spot in the final.
Djokovic, along with the other top eight seeds, received a bye into the second round. He’ll start against either Aslan Karatsev or Lloyd Harris. Both players have struggled this year and shouldn’t pose a threat to the Serb.
A potential third-round contest with either Reilly Opelka or Stan Wawrinka awaits. Given his form, he shouldn’t have a problem winning against either of them to reach the quarterfinals.
Felix Auger-Aliassime went through a rough patch for a while, but seems to have found his form once again as he made consecutive quarterfinals in Estoril and Madrid. He could face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round, followed by a third-round match against either Diego Schwartzman or Miomir Kecmanovic.
Kecmanovic had reached at least the quarterfinals of every tournament since the Rio Open in February. However, a second-round loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid ended his streak.
Schwartzman also enjoyed a great clay season until the Madrid Open, where he lost in the second round as well. The two are set to clash in the first round of the Italian Open, with the winner having to go through Alexander Bublik and Auger-Aliassime to get to the last eight.
Predicted quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic def. Diego Schwartzman
Second Quarter: Rafael Nadal looking to gather some momentum ahead of Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal at the 2021 Italian Open.
Seeded players: (3) Rafael Nadal, (5) Casper Ruud, (11) Hubert Hurkacz and (13) Denis Shapovalov
Expected quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal vs Casper Ruud
Dark horse: Sebastian Korda
Analysis: Defending champion Rafael Nadal arrived in Rome with relatively less match play on clay than usual. He returned to action at the Madrid Open after an injury layoff since Indian Wells, where he injured his rib in the semifinals against Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard made it to the quarterfinals, where he lost to 19-year-old Alcaraz, who marked his first win over his idol.
Nevertheless, Nadal will start his quest for a record-breaking 11th Italian Open title against either John Isner or a qualifier. A win could see him take on either Denis Shapovalov or Dan Evans in the third round.
Casper Ruud has established himself as one of the leading claycourters with his results, but hasn’t impressed much over the last few weeks. He did win a title on clay at the Argentina Open in February, but hasn’t replicated that form in Europe. The Norwegian lost in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Ruud then made it to the quarterfinals in Barcelona and Munich, but lost to Pablo Carreno Busta and Botic van de Zandschulp respectively. He then failed to win a match in Madrid, losing to Dusan Lajovic in three sets in the second round. At the Italian Open, he could face van de Zandschulp in a rematch from Munich, or Sebastian Korda in the second round.
A win would see Ruud take on either Hubert Hurkacz or David Goffin in the third round for the quarterfinal spot. Goffin won the title at Marrakech to start the clay season and held match points against Nadal in Madrid as well, with the Belgian finding his form after months of injury and poor form. Hurkacz has reached consecutive quarterfinals in Monte-Carlo and Madrid and could present a challenge here as well.
Predicted quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal def. Hubert Hurkacz
Third Quarter: Stefanos Tsitsipas looks to continue his fine run of form on clay
Stefanos Tsitsipas is one of favorites to win the Italian Open.
Seeded players: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas, (6) Andrey Rublev, (10) Jannik Sinner and (15) Pablo Carreno Busta
Expected quarterfinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Andrey Rublev
Dark horse: Fabio Fognini
Analysis: Stefanos Tsitsipas commenced his clay season on a winning note by successfully defending his Monte-Carlo Masters title. He then lost to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open. The Greek is currently in the semifinals of the Madrid Open, where he’s up against World No. 3 Alexander Zverev.
Tsitsipas is likely to commence his Italian Open campaign against Grigor Dimitrov. He has already defeated the Bulgarian twice this clay season. He could then face either Pablo Carreno Busta or Karen Khachanov in the third round. Given his form, he shouldn’t have much trouble dispatching either of them to reach the last eight.
Andrey Rublev is also in this quarter, and he’s had a pretty decent clay season so far. He won the Serbia Open and made it to the last eight in Madrid. He’ll start against either Frances Tiafoe or Filip Krajinovic in the second round.He could also meet Jannik Sinner in the third round. The Italian defeated him in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Masters a few weeks ago.
Sinner will face Pedro Martinez in the first round, with a likely second-round contest against compatriot Fabio Fognini. The latter is up against Dominic Thiem in the first round. The 2020 US Open champion has so far failed to win a match since his comeback in March and will look to win his first match since the Italian Open last year.
Sinner has had some decent results and if he plays at his best, he could once again defeat Rublev to reach the quarterfinals.
Predicted quarterfinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas def. Jannik Sinner
Fourth Quarter: Alexander Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz headed for a quarterfinal showdown
Alexander Zverev at the 2021 Italian Open.
Seeded players: (2) Alexander Zverev, (7) Carlos Alcaraz, (9) Cameron Norrie and (16) Roberto Bautista Agut
Expected quarterfinal: Alexander Zverev vs Carlos Alcaraz
Dark horse: Albert Ramos Vinolas
Analysis: Alexander Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz are the top two seeds this quarter, and both have a relatively easy path to the quarterfinals where they’re expected to meet.
Zverev won his first Masters 1000 title at the Italian Open in 2017 by defeating Djokovic in the final. The German started his clay season by reaching the semifinals in Monte-Carlo. He suffered an early loss next week at the BMW Open in Munich, losing to eventual champion and wildcard Holger Rune. His title defense at the Madrid Open has gone quite well so far, reaching the semifinals where he’s up against Tsitsipas for a spot in the final.
At the Italian Open, Zverev’ll start against a qualifier in the second round, followed by a third-round match against either Albert Ramos Vinolas or Roberto Bautista Agut.
Alcaraz has been on a roll this year, having won three titles so far, with two of them being on clay. His only disappointing result was at the Monte-Carlo Masters, where he fell to Sebastian Korda in his opener. At the Madrid Open, the teenager defeated his idol Nadal in the quarterfinals in three sets. The Spaniard will lock horns with Djokovic on Saturday evening to book his spot in the final.
Alcaraz will be making his debut at the Italian Open this year. He’ll start against either Cristian Garin or Francesco Passaro in the second round. Garin used to be quite a threat on clay, but has underperformed so far this year. The teenager is likely to face Cameron Norrie in the third round. He has already defeated the Brit twice this year, including a third-round win over him in Madrid this week.
Alcaraz could then meet Zverev in the quarterfinals. So far, the youngster has lost both of his matches against the German, but given his recent form he could finally score his first win against him.
Quarterfinal prediction: Carlos Alcaraz def. Alexander Zverev
Prediction for semifinals
Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal
Carlos Alcaraz def. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Prediction for the final: Novak Djokovic def. Carlos Alcaraz