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Mag By Craig Gabriel

WHEN IN ROME ...
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WHEN IN ROME ...

The city of Rome the eternal city is host city for the 76th edition of the prestigious Internazionali BNL d’Italia, arguably the second most important clay-court tournament in the world after the French Open. It is played at the glorious Foro Italico.

This is a stadium that was completed in 1938 and built by the dictator Benito Mussolini for expected use at the 1940 Olympic Games but as we know that never ever came to fruition. Still the tennis stadium remains one of the most beautiful tennis arenas anywhere in the world.

Over recent years the Foro Italico has been Refurbished and redeveloped and increased in size so that the main centre court, which is known as Stadio Pietrangeli, named after one of Italy’s greatest tennis players (Nicola Pietrangeli), has increased in seating size to approximately 11,000.

Still none of the charm has been lost. Larger than life white marble statues depicting various Olympic sports majestically surround that main stadium court. Almost like oversized human spectators they look over the stands watching all the action on the red clay court. They really are a very special view.

The fans that come to the tournament each year have to be among the most animated of tennis fans anywhere in the world they don’t take delays or players questioning calls lately. It’s almost an element of impatience with them that only adds to the whole atmosphere in Rome at the tournament. They could almost be amusingly likened to the days of ancient Rome when gladiators felt the pressure of fans at the Coliseum.

No doubt this year promises to be no different to any other year and the draw is as fascinating as ever in both men’s and women’s singles events.

At this level of tournament, which is just one step down from the four majors, you don’t expect any match to be easy and that is certainly the case once again at the Foro Italico.

So let’s have a look at the respective men’s and women’s singles draws at the top seeds in both draws get first round byes. First to the men and Novak Djokovic’s first match which will be the second round will be against either Pablo Carreno Busta Denis Shapovalov while second seed and defending champion Rafa Nadal, title-less so far this year, will play either Richard Gasquet or Jeremy Chardy. Roger Federer’s first match will be against either Frances Tiafoe or Joao Sousa and fourth seed Dominic Thiem plays Kyle Edmund or Fernando Verdasco.

Other interesting first round matches have David Goffin playing Stan Wawrinka to face Juan Martin del Potro and Daniil Medvedev plays Nick Kyrgios. If the seedings go to plan the quarter-finals should be Djokovic – Del Potro, Zverev – Nishikori, Federer – Tsitsipas, Nadal – Thiem.

In the women’s Elina Svitolina will start her total defence against either Zhang Shuai or Vika Azarenka. Serena Williams fresh from co-chairing the Met Ball plays a qualifier first up and then either her sister Venus or Elise Mertens.

If the seedings fall into place the quarter-final line up for the women should be Osaka against Bertens the new Madrid champion, Halep against Stephens, Svitolina against Pliskova and Barty against Kvitova.