The Madrid Open will reach its conclusion tomorrow in a final worthy of the best indoor hard court matches and will oppose Roger Federer, aiming for his 10th clay court title and 20th Masters shield overall (did I mention that he and Rafa are into a very nice battle for them this season?), and Tomas Berdych, aiming for his second Masters 1000 (his only one already dating nearly seven years).
But as much as I’ve been admiring the eerie ice-clay ballet danced by Federer on this inhospitable surface, making me wonder, like a few people of my knowledge, if he really is from this planet or not, this Masters 1000 still feels like a sham and it’s with great pleasure that I’m welcoming the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, or Rome Masters to make short.
This week, it seems like an even bigger field, if possible, than last week, as Rome welcomes back Juan Mónaco, who’s been out since Monte Carlo due to an ankle sprain, as well as World no 4 Andy Murray, who skipped Madrid due to a lower back injury. Their comebacks are more than welcomed as we are nearing the French Open and after the debacle that was Madrid, coming back to get good results on clay is a must.
However, neither of the two are having a good draw and, to be completely honest, I don’t even know if Murray will pass his first match, as he may very well meet David Nalbandian, which would be a really tough way to get back on the saddle after a two-week layoff. Murray’s possible opponents, if he passes the Nalbandian test (unless the Argentine falls to a qualifier in the first round), are not easier, as he could meet Richard Gasquet in the round-of-16, then David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, before meeting Rafael Nadal in the semis. Tough ask, is it not?
As for Mónaco, he will face a qualifier for starters and we can then have an all-Argentine encounter between him and Juan Ignacio Chela in round 2, if Chela defeats Radek Stepanek. Then, Novak Djokovic will likely await in the round-of-16. It’s a tough ask for a healthy player, so I cannot imagine for one coming back from a serious injury!
The most unlucky player of the draw, however, is Milos Raonic. The Canadian has a good (if not easy) first round against the tricky but not so tricky anymore Florian Mayer… before meeting Rafael Nadal! After Murray in Barcelona, and Roger Federer in Madrid, here is Nadal. Will he fall into Novak Djokovic’s quarter in Roland Garros to complete the top 4 meetings on clay?
As for Roger Federer, he has a pretty decent draw, although a meeting with a now healthy and more aggressive than ever Carlos Berlocq in round 2 would make a very interesting match to follow. I’m also sure that many are already salivating at the prospect of a possible rematch with John Isner after their Indian Wells finals, but most of all after Isner had defeated Federer on clay in Fribourg in the first round of the Davis Cup earlier this year. However, as this meeting would be in quarter-finals, nothing is assured.
It is not an easy draw for anyone, although I’m pretty sure that both Djokovic and Nadal will be eager to prove that they are still the men to beat on clay, although I would never discard Roger Federer on any surface, be it clay (where he excels), hard, grass, or even, as we’ve seen this week, ice.
Main draw action, as well as the end of the qualifying, starts tomorrow. Ciao Roma! I’m happy to see you again!