It turned out to be a rather eventful day in Rome. A light news schedule blew up when birthday boy Andy Murray retired from his match with Marcel Granollers after the Scot won the second set in a breaker to even the affair.
Fearing further damage to an ailing lower back – a problem he says he’s had for a few years now – and possibly missing his big events at Queen’s and Wimbledon, Murray is now contemplating withdrawing from the French Open.
“I need to make plans and see what to do,” Murray said. “Tonight I’ll speak with the physio and come up with a plan for the next few days and then make a decision on Paris after the next five days. I’ll need to take some days off and see how it settles down.”
“I’ll try and get it sorted but its been an issue for some while,” he added. “So I want to make sure that it’s something that I can sort out. It’s not enjoyable to play now.”
Murray still has plenty of time to heal up for Paris and back injuries are often day-to-day – Roger Federer has been dealing with a similar issue for quite some time. So I’ll play doctor and think Murray, who really doesn’t play well on the clay anyway, will still be at the French. If he isn’t then regardless of how Rafael Nadal does this week in Rome, the King of Clay will get that Top 4 seeding.
Nadal, who cruised to victory today over Italian Fabio Fognini, now matches up with the red hot Ernests Gulbis in a good one tomorrow. The Latvian crushed Viktor Troicki today 6-1, 6-1 and has some good history in Rome. In 2010 Ernests stunned Roger Federer in three sets and then took a set off Nadal in the semifinals. I think Gulbis could do the same again tomorrow against Rafa.
Back then, Gulbis joked that he “shit my pants a little bit” when he had the match against Federer on his racquet. Let’s see if he can do it again and keep his pants clean in the process.
Speaking of Federer, he’ll face a stern test against veteran Gilles Simon. The Frenchman isn’t a big threat on the clay, but he always plays Federer tough. In completed matches, Simon leads Federer 2-1 but they haven’t played on clay and they haven’t played in over two years.
Murray wasn’t the only top seed to go out on hump day. JW Tsonga was bounced by the hulking Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 7-6. After a slow start to the year, the Pole’s two Top 20 wins this season have come in the last two weeks.
“I was really happy especially because I didn’t get off to a good start to the season and I was sick,” said Janowicz. “So this was really important for me.”
Janowicz now faces Richard Gasquet.
Also today, David Ferrer edged Fernando Verdasco in three sets. Credit to Verdasco, after being MIA most the last six months, he’s playing better and making some noise. Benoit Paire and Jeremy Chardy were also winners while Madrid finalist Stan Wawrinka unfortunately withdrew with a thigh strain. Let’s hope Stan is just taking some extra time to prepare for what should be a good French Open.
Looking at Thursday, the schedule is absolutely loaded. Novak Djokovic is on first against the unorthodox Alexandr Dolgopolov. Tomas Berdych and Kevin Anderson meet again – they play every week, right? Ferrer now plays Phil Kohlschreiber and Juan Martin Del Potro will use the Pope’s blessing against Paire.
In the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova tests Sloane Stephens while her likely opponent in the final, Serena Williams, faces Dominika Cibulkova. Former slam winners Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur will battle on the third court!
Tennis channel will have first ball to last ball of all of the men’s matches.
ADDED: Here’s what Ernests said before playing Rafa in 2010 in Rome (- Tom):
ROME THURSDAY SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs A Dolgopolov (UKR) – ATP
 S Errani (ITA) vs  M Kirilenko (RUS) – WTA
[Q] E Gulbis (LAT) vs  R Nadal (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 7:30 PM
 S Stephens (USA) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 9:00 PM
G Simon (FRA) vs  R Federer (SUI) – ATP
SUPERTENNIS ARENA start 11:00 am
K Anderson (RSA) vs  T Berdych (CZE) – ATP
 J Del Potro (ARG) vs B Paire (FRA) – ATP
 S Williams (USA) vs  D Cibulkova (SVK) – WTA
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
J Janowicz (POL) vs  R Gasquet (FRA) – ATP
Also Check Out:
Davydenko Secures Shanghai SF; Federer Must Beat Murray Friday
Andy Murray Withdraws From Madrid Due To A Back Injury
Gisela Dulko Retires From Tennis
2014 Marquee Clay Schedules: Follow Nadal, Djokovic And Federer On The Road To Roland Garros
Roddick Recovers Against Gulbis at US Open; Nadal, Del Potro Playing Today