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 2018 Italian Open (Internazionali BNL d’Italia).
Don’t you feel different today?
The last time we spoke, Rafael Nadal was our Lord and Savior and all-conquering hero who seemed to be well on his way to sweeping everything on the clay court season. He was winning everything everywhere and his dominance was really unlike anything we had ever seen. Seriously, look at this string of sets:
Nadal made it all the way to 50 straight sets won on clay court, which is really a damn staggering number when you think about it, and then… it all stopped and he lost.
And today we have a new No. 1-ranked player who’s really the same old No. 1-ranked player as before, and we’re in Rome for yet another pretty major event on the tennis calendar. If you have a grand design in mind for Paris in a couple of weeks, you’re better off starting now in the Italian capital.
As we’ve done last week for Madrid, we’ll try to make predictions as to how these two main singles draws might unfold in Italy. Again, we’re not the best at this—but we try our best.
6-1 6-4 6-1 6-1 6-4 6-3 6-0 6-1 6-0 6-1 6-2 6-2 6-2 2-0 (ret) 6-3 6-4 6-0 6-2 6-3 6-1 6-2 6-2 6-3 6-1 6-4 6-4 6-1 6-3 6-3 6-2 6-0 6-2 6-4 6-1 6-3 6-2 6-4 6-4 6-1 6-3 6-0 7-5 6-4 6-0 6-2 6-1 6-3 6-1 6-3 6-4
Nadal on clay since start of ’17 French Open. No tiebreakers in sight
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 10, 2018
More or less, this women’s draw is really fairly similar to the one we saw last week, with Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki as the top two seeds up top and down at the bottom and everyone else sliding in between the two.
If Halep makes it out of the this first section, she’ll have worked hard for it and then some: she’s likely to play her first match against former No. 1-ranked player Victoria Azarenka and, well, it’s not fair but it doesn’t have to always be fair.
In the second section, we have Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko as favourites but we know better than to throw our hat in the ring with either of them. We backed the Spaniard last week, and she lost in the third round.
After her win in Madrid, Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from Rome and yet this bottom half is fairly stacked. Elina Svitolina is the defending champion in Rome but she’ll have her hands full simply trying to make it out of her section with Daria Kasatkina and Karolina Pliskova, two players coming off great performances in Madrid. Knowing that Kiki Bertens made it to the third set of the final, we feel a bit better about Wozniacki’s loss against the Dutch in Spain and we’re okay with backing her again here in Italy.
Quarterfinals: Caroline Garcia over Victoria Azarenka; Maria Sharapova over Jelena Ostapenko; Karolina Pliskova over Daria Kasatkina; Caroline Wozniacki over Elena Vesnina
Semifinals: Maria Sharapova over Caroline Garcia; Karolina Pliskova over Caroline Wozniacki
Final: Karolina Pliskova over Maria Sharapova
Novak Djokovic has won the @InteBNLdItalia ? four times. Will the ??? get off to a good start to his 2018 campaign in Rome on Monday against Alexandr Dolgopolov? ?
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) May 13, 2018
Just like it was the case for Madrid, we’re writing our predictions as a few matches have already been played—only this time for the men’s draw. We’d say that it might save us from making a few terrible choices here, but we know better.
Don’t let a little blip on the radar tell you otherwise, this is still Nadal’s kingdom and tournament to lose. He’ll get a few challenges left and right, maybe a Tomas Berdych set here and a Dominic Thiem set there, but we’ll roll with the King. Meeting Nadal in the semifinal should be John Isner, because the man is slotted in a section that seems custom-made for him with players that are either unfit, struggling, hurt or any combination of these.
As for the lower half of the draw, we don’t ask for much, we really don’t: give us Juan Martin del Potro in the final, we don’t care how it happens.
To all the mums who make it all possible, #HappyMothersDay ?
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) May 13, 2018
Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal over Dominic Thiem; Kei Nishikori over John Isner; Diego Schwartzman over Kevin Anderson; Juan Martin del Potro over Alexander Zverev
Semifinals: Rafael Nadal over Kei Nishikori; Juan Martin del Potro over Diego Schwartzman
Final: Rafael Nadal over Juan Martin del Potro
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG