Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
We’re off to Rome this week but first let’s take a step back to early May, as gauntlets had been thrown and the end game was clear: win a game each way, and Eugenie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova would go to war in Madrid.
Or, you know, so to speak. While Bouchard had made crystal clear her views on Sharapova’s return from suspension, Sharapova, it seems, couldn’t really care less about Bouchard. (Why would she, really?) And that’s mostly how it played out when the two faced off in the second round in Madrid.
How about that handshake, right? These are the little joys of life, folks. On any given day, life just comes and comes and brings you along for everything, but sometimes you just need to take a few seconds for yourself and gawk at what’s right in front of you. The Bouchard v. Sharapova feud, over something rather minimal and where one of the two protagonists in Bouchard has proposed something laughably out of touch, had reached boiling point.
If you don’t take a moment for yourself every once in a while, then before you know it you’re off to Rome for the next big tennis event. And you don’t know quite how you get there so fast. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but still. On that note, let’s have a look at this new event and see if maybe we can predict the main draws correctly.
What a difference a year makes.
A year ago in Rome, No. 2 Andy Murray beat No. 1 Novak Djokovic to launch his eventual takeover atop the ATP World Tour. A year later, both remain at No. 1 and No. 2 but they’re also playing as bad as they have in years.
In the top section of the draw, we’ll give Alexander Zverev the nod over Murray, as well as over Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Stanislas Wawrinka is firmly entrenched in his role as «Guy we’ll give the benefit of the doubt to» and slot him in the quarterfinals—hell, the final even!—but we certainly don’t feel good about it. In no real surprise, we envision Rafael Nadal conquering the Rome Masters the same way he has every other even in this clay court season; in a rematch of last week’s Madrid final, Nadal will overcome Dominic Thiem. Finally, Djokovic righted the ship momentarily last week but that’s all it was, a respite. He’s still in hell.
Quarterfinals: Alexander Zverev over Milos Raonic; Stanislas Wawrinka over David Goffin; Rafael Nadal over Dominic Thiem; Novak Djokovic over Kei Nishikori
Semifinals: Stanislas Wawrinka over Alexander Zverev; Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic
Final: Rafael Nadal over Stanislas Wawrinka
On the women’s side, the two Madrid finalists of last week arrive in Italy as favourites. Kristina Mladenovic captured the first title of her career in St. Petersburg and has been in absolute fuego throughout the season. She also has another two finals and a semifinal, and has generally been as good as anyone else. Simona Halep, meanwhile, just needed to reconnect with coach Darren Cahill apparently to add another Madrid trophy to her mantle.
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) May 14, 2017
That said, we don’t believe Halep will manage to equal her Madrid performance in Italy, and instead we’ll give the advantage to Maria Sharapova in the top section. In the lower part of the top half, yes your eyes do not deceive you this is really Svetlana Kuznetsova as a 7-seed in a Premier event at the venerable age of 31 years old and after having turned pro way back in 2000. Overall, the lower half of the draw is a little less strong as the top one; we’ll give the nod to Mladenovic and Johanna Konta in the third section, and Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina in the last section.
— WTA (@WTA) May 14, 2017
Quarterfinals: Maria Sharapova over Simona Halep; Svetlana Kuznetsova over Roberta Vinci; Kristina Mladenovic over Johanna Konta; Karolina Pliskova over Elina Svitolina
Semifinals: Maria Sharapova over Svetlana Kuznetsova; Kristina Mladenovic over Karolina Pliskova
Final: Kristina Mladenovic over Maria Sharapova
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG