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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday May 7, 2024

Iga Swiatek

The Road to Roland Garros turns another corner this week. Here's what we'll be watching for in Rome.

Photo Source: Getty

Main draw action has already kicked off at the Foro Italico, with the women commencing first-round action on the top half of the Rome women’s singles draw.

Tennis Express

On Wednesday, the men will take the court with both tours playing a full schedule for the first time at the 2024 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Here’s the order of play for Wednesday:

Before we dive in, here are eight things to watch at the last big event prior to Roland Garros:

Rafa and Nole in Same Draw Again

How many more times will we see this? For the first time since the 2023 Australian Open Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will populate the same men’s singles draw. Can you say special? There are 16 Rome titles between the pair since 2005, when Nadal raised the trophy for the first time.

In fact, only three players not named Rafa or Nole – Andy Murray, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev – have won the Rome title since 2005.

Win or lose, this will be Nadal’s last appearance at Rome. The 10-time champion faces Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs in first-round action on Thursday. Top-seeded Djokovic will face either Corentin Moutet or Roman Safiullin in the second round after his bye.

Iga Goes for Three

Iga Swiatek will bid to become the sixth woman to win three or more Rome titles this year, and she’ll ride in with momentum. The Pole won the title in 2021 and 2022, but was ousted in the semis by Elena Rybakina last year.

Swiatek is fresh off winning her 20th WTA title on Saturday in Madrid, and owns a 71-10 lifetime record on clay.

Schwartzman’s Last Rome

After announcing plans to retire on Sunday, Diego Schwartzman, 2020 finalist at Rome, qualified for the main draw and will face Aleksandar Vukic in the first round. Schwartzman, a beloved former No.8 who excels on clay and in the hearts of fans from Argentina and abroad, intends to play as much as possible before ending his career at Buenos Aires in February of 2025. We can’t wait to cheer him on.

Gauff Aims Higher

Coco Gauff has a shot at the No.2 spot in the WTA rankings once again this week, but she’ll need a good performance to lock it up. The 20-year-old has to reach the semis, and have Sabalenka fall before the quarterfinals, basically. There are other scenarios, but most important is Gauff’s overall level. The former Roland Garros finalist needs to assert herself this week at Rome to be considered a true contender in Paris. She has the clay chops but has been hampered by double faults and patchy play thus far on the clay in 2024.

She is 3-2 overall with her losses coming in the quarterfinals at Stuttgart (to Marta Kostyuk) and the round of 16 in Madrid (to Madison Keys).

Casper’s Calling Card

Speaking of momentum, there is a window of opportunity on the men’s side, with Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz struggling with injuries (both have pulled out of the draw), and two-time Roland Garros finalist Casper Ruud could be a name that takes advantage.

Ruud is 13-3 on clay and always performs magnificently on the surface. He is 134-48 lifetime on clay with 10 titles. Ruud has reached the semis at Rome in each of his last three appearances.

Don’t Sleep on Danimal

Danielle Collins had her 15-match winning streak snapped at Madrid (by Aryna Sabalenka in a three-set quarterfinal), but we expect the American to get back on the horse sooner rather than later. Why not in Rome?

Collins, who plans to retire at the end of the season, is slated to face Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals, but only if the seeds hold.

Opportunity Knocks for the Men

We mentioned Casper Ruud as a potential breakout player in Rome, but with Alcaraz and Sinner out, Medvedev ailing (groin injury at Madrid) and Djokovic not yet in full bloom (he’s yet to win a title and is 12th in the Race to Turin standings, but still he is the favorite in Rome in our eyes), there could be room for other upside surprises. Can Andrey Rublev keep it rolling after his Madrid title? Does Stefanos Tsitsipas, this year’s Monte-Carlo champion, have more great tennis in him? Or will we see a surprise from the likes of Holger Rune, Lorenzo Musetti, Ugo Humbert or Alejandro Davidovich? Those last four names are stabs in the dark, but you never know, right? Crazy things happen when draws open up. Just ask Felix Auger-Aliassime…

Rybakina’s Defense

Defending champion Elena Rybakina is in the midst of an incredible season. It took a Herculean effort from Aryna Sabalenka to knock her out of Madrid (the loss ended her 16-match winning streak on clay and snapped her run of 12 consecutive deciders won) and it will likely take another big effort to stop her in Rome.

Is Rybakina a true force on clay, and can she continue to put up big wins and titles on the surface? Rome will tell us a lot.


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