Preview: ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome 2018
Last year’s winner Alexander Zverev will be back to defend his title and the current world number three is in excellent form ahead of Rome
Many of the world’s top tennis players will be in Rome from May 13-20 for the 2018 edition of the Italian Open.
The tournament is one of the three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events contested on clay and serves as an excellent warm-up for the French Open at Roland Garros.
Last year’s winner Alexander Zverev will be back to defend his title and the current world number three is in excellent form ahead of the event.
The German claimed his second consecutive BMW Open title at the start of May with a straight-sets win over Philipp Kohlschreiber in Munich.
Zverev converted four of his six break point chances to secure a 6-3 6-3 triumph in just 71 minutes for a seventh Tour title of his career.
The victory continued the 21-year-old’s recent strong performances, which included reaching the semi-final of the Monte Carlo Masters.
Zverev stunned Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-3 to win the 2017 final, making him the youngest Masters event champion since the Serbian himself won the 2007 Miami Open.
He dominated from the start, breaking the 12-time major winner’s serve in the first game and twice in the second set.
Djokovic, now ranked 12th in the world, has struggled for form this year although his recent first-round win over Kei Nishikori at the Madrid Open was a promising sign.
The 30-year-old has failed to reach the quarter-finals in five tournaments since returning from elbow surgery in January, but his 7-5 6-4 win sent out a message to his rivals that he is on the way back.
Tennis fans wanting to see Djokovic in action can plan their trip by checking Cheaphotels.org for affordable hotel rooms in Rome. Tickets are still available at the official website for each day of the tournament. For the final on May 20, the cheapest available seats are currently at around 150 euros.
Another player who will be eager to make his mark in Rome is Spanish star Rafael Nadal. The seven-time champion was beaten in the quarter-finals by Austria’s Dominic Thiem last year, but he is strongly fancied to make amends in 2018.
Since his return from injury, Nadal has been in irresistible form on clay. The world No 1 won the Barcelona Open and Monte-Carlo Masters, both for the 11th time in his career, without dropping a set in either tournament.
Nadal will bid to win his sixth Madrid Masters title ahead of the Italian Open and he is the overwhelming favourite to do so.
Roger Federer’s decision to skip the whole of the clay-court season is a blow to Italian tennis fans, although the 36-year-old will probably benefit from the decision further down the line.
The Swiss star is focusing on winning Wimbledon for the ninth time this summer and the veteran will undoubtedly enjoy the opportunity to recharge his batteries ahead of the tournament.
Andy Murray will also be missing from Rome after undergoing hip surgery earlier this year, but Stan Wawrinka is expected to make his comeback from a calf injury.
The 32-year-old’s last match was at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, where he retired against Ilya Ivashka in the second set.
It is difficult to look past Nadal for the probable winner of the Italian Open, although Zverev and Djokovic should not be underestimated.