Rome Preview: Djokovic, Federer Look To Get Back On Track On Rafa’s Turf

by Sean Randall | May 11th, 2013, 7:58 pm

After a disappointing Madrid event, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will look to get their games back to form in the final tune-up before the French Open. With the addition of Juan Martin Del Potro, the Rome field is fully loaded but we know who the man to beat is: Rafael Nadal.

And for the second straight week the Tennis Gods have smiled upon Nadal, and frowned on poor David Ferrer. Arguably the third best claycourt on the planet, Ferrer will have to beat the Top 2 – Nadal and DJokovic – just to reach the final! Ferrer once again drew Rafa in his quarter but will have to deal with an impreoving Fernando Verdasco and Milos Raonic before then. Nadal’s little section should be a breeze. He’ll play the Italian champ between Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini – in his opener, then I’ll say Jarkko Nieminen before running over Ferrer to reach the semifinals.

In that semi Nadal has drawn the top seeded Djokovic. The Serb though will likely have the surging Stan Wawrinka in the third then Tomas Berdych in the quarters. An upset by Wawrinka wouldn’t surprise me, but I think Novak, after a poor outing in Madrid, gets his game and ankle back on track. Of anyone in the field with so much at stake in Paris, he’s really got the most to prove on the ginger ankle of his.

In the bottom half, Federer, who’s never won Rome, has a great draw. He’ll probably get Radek Stepanek again, then possibly Tommy Haas. Roger could lose that but I think he wont. Then I’ll take Tsonga to come out of a tough section that includes Mr. Sharapova Grigor Dimitrov, Jerzy Janowicz, Richard Gasquet and Sam Querrey. On these faster courts in Rome, the big hitters can and often do play well – didn’t Pete Sampras once win Rome? So I give Tsonga a real, real chance against Roger. But I think Federer gets by one more hurdle. Maybe.

Andy Murray and Del Potro headline a very wide open third quarter. You could make a case for five different guys getting through. Along with Murray and DelPo, there’s Nicolas Almagro, Juan Monaco and Nikolay Davydenko. But if Del Potro is healthy and fit, I think it’s him. Murray has never been to a clay final and I just don’t sense that urgency and intent on this surface from the Scot. But he’s capable. Del Potro’s played well this year and a big result this week could really set him up nicely for a deep Paris run.

So as of now, my semifinals look like Djokovic v. Nadal, Del Potro v Federer. In the final, I’ll take Nadal over Del Potro. There’s a reason Rafa’s lost just twice in nine years at the event. It’s too close to Paris to let down now.

Matches begin on Sunday with Dimitrov and Querrey v. Gasquet.

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43 Comments for Rome Preview: Djokovic, Federer Look To Get Back On Track On Rafa’s Turf

Kimberly Says:

Nooooooooooo! Please revise your pick!

thebigfour Says:

Nole over Rafa
Federer over Murray
Djokovic over Federer

RZ Says:

I’d love to see Fed win this to add Rome to his haul. I’m quite certain he’ll do better than his Madrid showing but it’s so tough for any player to beat Rafa and Nole on clay (except for Zeballos and Dmitrov!)

Sirius Says:

I won’t be surprized if fed wins rome :)

courbon Says:

Goood, Sean picked Nadal to win.

skeezer Says:

“I won’t be surprized if fed wins rome :)”

Nope! According to all ,not Fed, he will never win again and get beat all the time and he is still in his primest of prime @ 31,32,42,59,72,etc.


gannu Says:

thank god…sean picked nadal…i am sure he is gonna lose this tournament ;-)

Wilfried Says:

Federer ‘s got a rather favaorbale draw and should go deep in this tourney.
Djokovic’s main objective this year is winning Roland Garros. I don’t think he’ll give it his all at the Rome Masters. Nadal might have to wait till Paris to face him again.
Just my two cents.

Wilfried Says:

sorry. made syntax error. It should be “favorable” instead of favaorbale.

nadalista Says:

I thought the world #1 was always the man to beat, or so we have been told endlessly by those who know sport, ahem, on this blog………


Sirius Says:


ha ha, have faith in fedexpress. i think he might win this one. people wrote him off many times only to be proved wrong by the Maestro. Hope that he’ll do that again :)

B-Lab Says:

We’re still talking about Davydenko? 2008 called, it wants it’spreview back.

nadalista Says:

Bravo Fernando Alonso! Winner of Spanish GP. Now let’s hope Rafa makes it a double celebration today!!


skeezer Says:

^way to keep it on topic
GP? Whats that? Google Preferences?
Back to Tennis…

Bravo to the American super duo Bryan bros., for another Doubles title in Madrid!

nadalista Says:

^^Sorry massa, me shall behave next time!!

nadalista Says:

Rafa, Champion……….

Next, Rome……..


nadalista Says:

RT @darren_cahill: “Has Rafa made the best return to tennis after a significant injury EVER? 7 months out, 7 events, 7 finals, 5 wins. Muster, maybe? #VamosRafa”

nadalista Says:

RT @SteveTignor: “Wonder what Nadal’s career record is against guys with one-handed backhands? Even Stan can’t do much with his. ”

Ehhhh, do you really wanna go there????

The Great Davy Says:


You will be talking about The Great Davy for next 10 years, as long as ATP increase the prize money for 1st round appearance.

sheila Says:

sorry to all nadal fans, but geez i would love 2c someone other than nadal win rome & the fo. he is a gr8 player, but he is so dominant that it is boring watching his matches because he wins b4 the matches begin. other than djokovic winning an occasional match from nadal, nadal is so dominant that for me as a viewer, it becomes boring to watch. i stopped watching the warinka/nadal final because it was predictable once again. even federer was never this dominant. once again i apologize to all nadal fans, but as a tennis viewer who isnt a nadal fan it is too predictable & too boring to watch his matches because no one, other than djokovic, can even make it competitive. yes ferrer took a set off of him, but the minute ferrer lost the second set i shut the match off because i predicted nadal would once again slaughter him in the 3rd. pattern playing nadal: tight first set with slaughter in the remaining set. boring boring boring. i’m sorry but this does not make for enjoyable tennis viewing anymore.

Steve 27 Says:

not watch Nadal again on clay is my advice to you. No more complaints, please.

Giles Says:

Winning is never booooooring!

Kimberly Says:

must win game for golden state or they are done and dusted IMO and Ben Pronin will be a jinxer

Giles Says:

The skeezer geezer doesn’t know what GP stands for! Lol

alison Says:

^I dont know what GP means either^.

Giles Says:

alison. Fernando Alonso, Spanish GP. Doesn’t it ring any bells? Grand Prix.

alison Says:

^Oh yeah sorry silly me lol duh^.

Rumble Says:

I don’t think Fed has it him to win another clay masters or slam at this age – he’s hitting 32 soon. Perhaps this Wimbledon is his last chance at a slam.

As for Djoke, I don’t think he will risk his ankle again unless he is facing Nadal – then the beast comes out, and its Nadal who becomes anxious.

I also don’t think anyone other than Djokovic is winning against Nadal on clay, at least this year. The others are either panzies or too old. Ferrer really had it this time, and just blew it.

Its mostly the mental edge that Nadal has on clay. Except against Djokovic.

Time for some younger guns to show up – at least Dimitrov showed some heart.

French seems very interestingly poised.

Rumble Says:

About Dimitrov – he has had bad coaches, really bad. Nobody in their right mind would let a player have a one-handed backhand in today’s game – That’s the main difference between Djoke and Federer. And that’s what Nadal exploits, time after time after time, since he is a lefty, which is less common. He just keeps playing heavy topspin to the backhand. Its boring, but it works.

Michael Says:

I think it is time Novak, Roger and Andy pull up their socks and get ready for the Clay court battle. Rome will favour Rafa just because of its slow pace and I think he should be the favourite to win this one. As regards the draw, Novak will have its hands full as he has to beat some of the best players and most importantly meeting Rafa in the semis.

Rumble Says:


Rome is one of the FASTER clay courts – which does NOT suit Nadal. That’s why even Sampras was able to win this title – Becker came close, Federer came darn close (2006!!), and other shot makers. Nadal’s moonballing is less effective here.

Novak has won this one twice before, including beating Nadal in straight sets in 2011. Of all the clay tournaments – this is the one where Nadal is most vulnerable, relatively speaking of course. Of the last 8 times, Nadal has won it 6 times and Djokovic twice. I don’t see anyone else winning it this year either, with Nadal 60 Djokovic 40 (in terms of odds).

alison Says:

Strange that hes won Rome 6 times,yet it doesnt suit Rafa because its a faster clay court hmm,quite contradictory but whatever.

faruq Says:

I’ve strange feeling that Nadal’s new backhand is more effective on the faster courts than the slower ones.. Don’t know why..

Michael Says:


Agree. But is it faster than Madrid ? Everything is relative. Rafa is more comfortable here than in Madrid where he is more vulnerable. I think Rafa has dominated this Championship more than anybody else in recent times. True Roger came very close even ahead 4-0 in the final set and then went on to lose. Novak too has beaten Nadal before and so with all things going well, we can look forward to a more competitive tournament than the one we witnessed in Madrid which was plastered with Nadal all over. As regards the odds, well Novak is meeting Rafa in the semis and that should be the final in my opinion. Always when Novak plays Rafa, I would say 50:50 if it is on clay courts and 60:40 if it is on hard courts in favour of Novak.

Michael Says:


But is Rome faster than Madrid ? Nevertheless, Rafa is an all court player not confined to just Clay. Typically he likes slow clay courts where he is invincible. But it is not that he cannot play on fast courts. His recent exhibition in Indian Wells where he beat a rampaging Del Potro in the finals is still in my mind. What impressed me was the way he recovered when he was initially down and out. Suddenly out of nowhere, Rafa produced his magical tennis and Del Potro was blown off the court not having an answer.

Rumble Says:

Nadal is, of course, no slouch on any surface.

However, clay does remain BY FAR his favorite surface. His resume outside of clay is pretty darn good – 4 slams and some 15 odd titles. But of ALL the players who are in the “legends” category, Nadal’s resume is most one-sided, in terms of being so heavily dependent on clay titles and clay slams and clay wins.

You have to remember that only 25% of the tournaments (and slams) are played on clay, so a normal resume would be 25% titles and slams on clay. Nadal is at 75% on clay, 25% on other surfaces.

Madrid is fast due to altitude so ball goes through the air quicker. Rome is fast because the clay is different, and ball doesn’t slow down THAT MUCH or bounce THAT MUCH as it does on other red clay surfaces. The Rome type of speed is worse for Nadal than Madrid type of speed – since Madrid speed doesn’t reduce bounce (in fact, it makes it bouncier). And Nadal really needs the ball to bounce high to the opponent’s backhand for him to have a good chance.

That’s why fast indoors are so bad for him, and he doesn’t have a single YEC. Can’t think of another 6+ slam winner who has never won the YEC.

Giles Says:

I think we all know that the FO are not going to budge on the seedings for FO but here is a tweet from Brad Gilbert trying to argue a case for Rafa :
“Memo to the FO if you are watching this clinic Rafa is putting on, there is still time to do the right thing for Draw and seed him No. 2”
Thanks Brad Gilbert for trying but I think it will be to no avail.

Rumble Says:

Ya, Nadal seeded 5th at French is absurd. I agree, he should be seeded 2nd.

I do hope though that he gets a normal draw, not a soft draw, at the French. He has gotten away with too many soft draws at majors.

Steve 27 Says:

Can’t think of another 6+ slam winner who has never won the YEC.


But if you think the Master or YEC is the same like the 80s in the Madison Square Garden or even in the 90s in Germany, you are so wrong. Is important yes, is more important than the Master 1000, yes, is for the possible champion to 1500 points, but as Australia became the fourth most important tournament of the tennis world, the importance of the now called YEC decreased and is marketing a product that a tournament that reached high levels of popularity back in the 80s. Of course, with London is to resemble what was NY at the time, but times have changed and the world changed. It’s a great tournament, but not the fifth as they call GS followers already know who. I’d much rather missing a WTF, that Australia, RG, Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.
I do not intend to change the surface (hardcourt) but if it would be interesting to return to play outdoors, like in Houston 2003 and 2004.

Nadalista Says:

What’s absurd about Rafa being ranked #5 at RG? He is ranked #5 now, no? The tournaments he has entered so far at this ranking have proceeded well, with no drama so why the hullabaloo about RG?

Rafa does not need protecting, he can take care of business at any tournament, whatever his ranking.

If Rafa needs a protected ranking he will ask for it, so far he has not, so let it be……

jamie Says:

Djokovic to win Rome and Roland Garros.

You heard it here first.

Giles Says:

^^^ Nah!

alison Says:

Giles its nothing new,as Polo once said as pointless as a cracked crystal ball,anyone can make them,its sport not real life,so its easier to predict than say me winning the lottery, just by the law of averages some will pan out and some wont,Man Utd winning the league(yawn)never saw that one coming(sigh),no harm in it but best to just wait and see,the only thing i get irritated with is when fans seem to think that there own personal opinions are BONA FIDE facts,too much hero worshipping.

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