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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 8, 2021

Next week’s Rome draw has been set on the men’s side, and once again Rafael Nadal is looking at an early contest with rising Italian teenager Jannik Sinner. Recall that in Madrid, Nadal was slated to face Sinner in the third round, but the 19-year-old fell to Alexei Popyrin in second-round action.

Tennis Express

See the full draw here:


Nadal’s Brutal Draw

The Rome draw revealed that Sinner could face Nadal in the second round, provided the Italian is able to get past France’s Ugo Humbert.

Nadal, seeded second, is coming off a quarterfinal loss at the Madrid Open on Friday (to Alexander Zverev). The nine-time champion is hoping to make it four tournaments with double digit titles this week at the Foro Italico—he already has 13 Roland-Garros titles, 12 Barcelona titles and 11 Monte-Carlo titles.

If Nadal progresses past round two he could face Denis Shapovalov in the third round. Shapovalov was slated to face Casper Ruud in the first round but the Norwegian pulled out at the last minute after reaching the semis in Madrid. Nadal could face Sascha Zverev, the player who knocked him out in Madrid, in the quarterfinals, if the seeds hold.


Djokovic’s Return

Up on the top half of the draw, Novak Djokovic makes his return to the clay. The Serb is just 3-2 on the surface thus far in 2021 (losses to Dan Evans and Aslan Karatsev), and he could meet one of the men that beat him this season. That would be Great Britain’s Dan Evans, who faces Taylor Fritz in first-round action.

Djokovic would face Grigor Dimitrov in the third round if the seeds hold, and his potential quarterfinal opponent would be Stefanos Tsitsipas.

From the quarterfinals on, Djokovic's draw is extremely tough, if the seeds hold. He could have to get past Tsitsipas then Rublev or Thiem in the semifinals, and perhaps Nadal in the final, if he wants to win a sixth title at Rome.

The quarterfinals shape up as follows, if the seeds hold:

[1] Djokovic v [5] Tsitsipas
[4] Thiem v [7] Rublev
[8] Schwartzman v [3] Medvedev
[2] Nadal v [6] Zverev

First Round Popcorn

There are plenty of great first rounders to watch in Rome. Here are a few of our favorites.

[9] Matteo Berrettini v Nikoloz Basilashvili
Lorenzo Sonego v [14] Gael Monfils
Filip Krajnovic v Felix Auger-Aliassime
[15] Hubert Hurkacz v [wc] Lorenzo Musetti
Kei Nishikori v Fabio Fognini
[13] Denis Shapovalov v Casper Ruud
Ugo Humbert v Jannik Sinner

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