It’s Rafael Nadal’s claycourt world, and all the other players on tour are just spectators.
After winning his first two tournaments of the claycourt season at the Masters Monte Carlo and Barcelona, the Spaniard enters the Masters Rome this week in an attempt to revenge last year’s second-round loss to countryman and former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. In last year’s final, No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic came from a set down to defeat unseeded Stan Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Only the honeymooning Andy Roddick is missing from the Top 8 seeds which also include Roger Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko and Gilles Simon.
Nadal’s quarter could have a decidedly American flavor, with potential meetings against Sam Querrey in the second round and James Blake in the third. Opening-round matches in the top quarter include (9) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Richard Gasquet in an all-French meeting, Nicolas Almagro vs. Ernests Gulbis, and Mardy Fish vs. Igor Andreev, with the winner to face Verdasco.
Murray is the top dog in the second quarter, and after a bye will open against the winner of Nicolas Kiefer and qualifier Juan Monaco. No. 12 seed Fernando Gonzalez starts against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, with a third-round meeting with No. 7 Davydenko looming in the third round.
The defending champ Djokovic has an easy start, and will likely meet the winner of the first-round meeting between No. 13 Tommy Robredo and former No. 1 Marat Safin in the third round, and Del Potro or the defending runner-up Wawrinka in the quarters.
Federer in the bottom quarter will start against either Ivo Karlovic or Jan Hernych. The No. 2-ranked Swiss is looking at a meeting with nemesis Radek Stepanek in the third round, and Simon or David Ferrer in the quarters.
Likely quarterfinals are Nadal vs. Verdasco, Murray vs. Davydenko, Djokovic vs. Del Potro, and Federer vs. Ferrer.
Nadal won the Rome title from 2005-07.
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