Rome Masters 2012: Men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis
May 12, 2012 · Print This Article
It’s hard to believe that the clay court season is almost over, isn’t it? We’re very nearly on the doorsteps of the year’s second major in France and how many of us can actually say that we’ve got a little red or even blue clay on our socks? With that being said, this week’s Rome Masters in the heavenly Foro Italico will provide us with the final building blocks to formulate are favorites for Roland Garros.
Despite some rough moments in Madrid, the usual suspects have proved to still be the lead contenders. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won’t have a stock-split despite their early losses last week. Roger Federer was back in action on the blue stuff in Spain—well rested and looking fit—and it goes without saying that he could win in Rome and at the French Open later this month. Federer has an elite enough game that he doesn’t need many matches under his belt to play well; that wasn’t what I thought going into Madrid last week.
On the women’s side, top seed Victoria Azarenka remains on course for her best year on Tour. Although she complained about the slippery blue dust in Madrid, the Belarusian kept her ponytail tight and her footwork in check to pull in another positive result.
Based on what I’ve seen so far during the clay season, Serena Williams could very well win her second title in France come early June. Although she has many Hors d’oeuvres in life to go along with her on court job, Serena is still pound-for-pound the best athlete on the WTA. The American overcame a nice start by Caroline Wozniacki in Madrid and further displayed her skill-set to comfortably oust Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals.
Elsewhere, Agi Radwanska—the new world No. 3—once again acquitted herself with poise in a big tournament. Using her sneaky-quick game to great effect, Radwanska could very well become the new Li Na, Francesca Schiavone or Ana Ivanovic in Paris this year.
With the conditions much fairer in Rome—and almost nothing for the top players to complain about in terms of on-court conditions—let’s now take a look at men’s and women’s draws for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Roma.
Defending yet another title this week, Djokvoic will be looking to hone his backhand down-the-line as he sets his sights on a fourth straight major in Paris. Enduring a rocky road in Madrid, the Serb will look to rebound from a quarterfinal loss to Tipsarevic when he begins against Bernard Tomic or a qualifier. The young Aussie continues to improve with every unorthodox shot that he hits, but an upset over Djokovic is quite unlikely.
Moving forward in the draw, Djokovic could face Juan Monaco in the third-round and either del Potro, Bellucci or Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Del Potro has started the clay season with some purpose, while Bellucci and Tsonga have struggled in recent weeks. I’d say that Djokovic should be good for at least a semifinal showing here and if rumors are true that Federer will skip the event after his success in Madrid, then how can we bet against the world’s best player to reach another Italian final?
Monfils will hope to rebound from a blow-out loss to Berdych last week, while Tipsarevic and Isner will attempt to honor their top 10 status with good showings. Watchout for Wawrinka and Kohlschreiber as well—they’ve both put together great clay seasons that nobody is talking about.
Picks: Djokovic, Wawrinka
Publicly unhappy after his third-round loss to Fernando Verdasco, Nadal will happily be back at sea level and the red stuff for another Roma campaign. Winning the title on five previous occasions, Nadal’s fourth most successful clay event will begin opposite Milos Raonic or Florian Mayer, before either Berdych or Almagro could see him in the quarterfinals. Nadal has had a fine clay season to date and if he can win in Rome then his early loss in Madrid won’t mean anything.
Elsewhere, we have Andy Murray back in action, alongside Ferrer, Verdasco, Simon, Nalbandian and Dolgopolov. There’s a lot of talent there, but apart from Ferrer, all of the aforementioned players have proved to be flaky from week-to-week.
So who’s the likely candidate to face Nadal in the semifinals? I’d say that with a week of rest for his back and ample time to practice at the facility, Murray should be good for a place in the final four.
Picks: Nadal, Murray
Have we seen enough from Azarenka during the clay season to make her a bona fide RG favorite? She’ll surely arrive as a top three favorite in France, but to gain that Nadal or Djokovic aura going in, she’ll have to add a title in Italy to her hardware collection. Beginning her journey against either Peer or Peng, Vika could find some adversity from Cibulkova in the third-round, before reigning French winner Li Na is slated as her quarterfinal foe. Na must have her RG defense occupying her mind, and her recent results would indicate that an early loss could happen here.
Radwanska debuts with a seeding of No. 3 in Rome and although she lost in the semis of Madrid to Azarenka, the Pole has shown great improvement on clay in 2012.
Wozniacki basically collapsed after leading Serena by a set last week—courtesy of her dad’s advice during the second-round set?—and one has to wonder if her weak forehand has enough juice to hit through the calm Italian air?
Talking about ball speed has never been an issue for Serena. Her game packs enough bite to blow through any court and with a decent draw on tap, she should have enough time to adjust to the red clay in Rome.
Keep an eye on local favorite Roberta Vinci this week, but look for Azarenka and Serena to set up a rematch of their Madrid final one round earlier in Italy.
Picks: Azarenka, Serena Williams
Regardless of her improved results on clay, it’s still hard for me to pencil in Sharapova as a favorite in Paris. She’s surely capable of defeating anyone on any given day, but it’s those matches where she’s not 100 percent that the clay can cause her to lose. Attempting to become another player to seal her legacy by winning all four majors, Sharapova begins her Rome quest against Christina Mchale or Monica Niculescu, with Ivanovic, Schiavone, Venus Williams or Stosur on the horizon.
Remember Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez? Well if her name wasn’t enough of a tongue twister for you, this Spanish serve-and-volleyer also won the Rome title in 2010. With a very unpredictable half here, Martinez Sanchez could just have enough touch to reach the final four again.
Kvitova, who should have done better in Madrid, will be out of her element here. In saying that though, the Czech is No. 4 in the world and should have the match experience to take advantage of her weak draw. However, a player that I’d be more inclined to pick here is Julia Goerges. The exuberant German has enough firepower to hit through the clay and she should have enough belief to get by Marion Bartoli in a second-round affair.
Picks: Schiavone, Goerges