ATP Tour: Italian Open Round of 64 Selected Fixtures Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

Damien Kayat looks at some of the more interesting Round of 64 clashes coming your way from the Italian Open this week. 

Denis Shapovalov 12/10 | Tomas Berdych 13/20
32 year-old Berdych has not enjoyed the greatest season. Let’s be honest here, it really hasn’t happened this year. Issues with injury and advancing age are factors that have to be considered- don’t let Roger Federer’s experience with the fountain of youth fool you. A semi-final appearance in Marseille represents his high point, though his clay-court season has gone nowhere thus far. But it’s fair to remember that Berdych is a highly accomplished clay-courter. The 2010 French Open semi-finalist has also won titles in Madrid and Monte Carlo. So don’t be too surprised if he is able to turn the tide this week.

I had almost started to give up on young Shapavalov after that breakthrough on the North American hard-courts last year. His overly gung-ho approach was leading him nowhere and he desperately looked like a player in need of direction. But an encouraging week in Miami showed some glimpses of that talent. But the switch to the slower clay-courts didn’t seem to bode well for him, with first round losses in Budapest and Monte Carlo not the greatest harbingers of success. Bu a remarkable semi-final run in Madrid has change the topography of his season, with victories over Raonic, Sandgren and Edmund exemplifying his talent.

I just have the feeling that experience is going to get the better of valor this week, despite Berdych’s struggles of late. This is amplified by the fact that the Canadian will no doubt be somewhat fatigued by that deep run in Madrid. 

Louis Pouille 15/20 | Andreas Seppi 21/20
France’s Lucas Pouille has battled to adjust to the demands of the clay court season after a highly successful year on the European hardcourts. The up and coming French baseliner went all the way in Montpelier, beating the likes of Gasquet and Tsonga in the process. He then went on to lose the final in Marseille to Karen Khachanov before that brilliant run to the finals in Dubai. But his form has completely dried up on the dusky stuff, with three consecutive losses spanning Monte Carlo through Madrid. So it’s fair to say that the supremely talented Pouille is due a return this week.

The Italian Seppi will be feeling confident of usurping the Frenchman, particularly when you look at his more attuned clay court skills. Seppi started the year with a bang, reaching the Round of 16 in Melbourne. He then went on to the semi-finals in Rotterdam, only to lose to Roger Federer. Though not as active as Pouille this season, the Italian has already shown considerable clay-court credentials. He won five matches in Monte Carlo before reaching the semi-finals in Budapest. He had a disappointing loss to Djere in Istanbul, but will justifiably feel confident this week.

Pouille own their one and only encounter on clay in this year’s Davis Cup. The five set thriller indicates just how evenly matched these two players seem to be. But the recent form of Pouille seems to suggest that the Italian is well worth a shot here at 21/20. 

Borna Coric 6/10 | Stefanos Tsitsipas 5/4
Here is yet another one of those brilliant young-gun clashes that seems to be swarming the tour like Gremlins. Lanky Greek Tsitsipas has taken the European clay-court season by storm, with shades of Gustavo Kuerten in his play- to my mind. There were encouraging signs in Monte Carlo for the 19 year-old, but it was really Barcelona that opened up the world to his talents. A rousing run to the final saw victories over the likes of Carreno Busta and exulted clay-court aficionado Dominic Thiem. He backed that up with a semi-final appearance in Estoril and will be confident of yet another stand-out week this week.

21 year-old Croatian Coric has battled through injury this season to establish himself as one of the most exciting prospects on the entire tour. He reached the quarterfinals in Dubai before that memorable escapade in Indian Wells. He lost to Roger Federer in a brilliant semi-final and then backed that up with a quarterfinal appearance in Miami. He clay-court form has been strange. He ran into a possessed and seemingly reinvigorated Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo before pushing Dominic Thiem to the brink in Madrid. So while he hasn’t quite cracked the clay-court nut yet, he doesn’t appear too far away.

It’s not too surprising that this will be the first encounter between these two, considering their respective ages. But if you were to push me, I think that the Croatian is on the verge of a clay-court breakthrough, and Tsitsipas has been on court a lot of late. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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