The Rome Masters takes place at the Foro Italico, a slightly more inviting and lush environment than the sterile and boxy surroundings at Madrid.
The Rome draw ceremony took place with Fognini, Seppi, Vinci, Pannetta and Jelena Jankovic in attendance:
Fognini and Seppi are drawn to play each other in R1. There was a loud commotion at the draw ceremony when this match-up was announced, followed by a “Mama Mia!”
After an unexpected absence, DelPo will make his debut at Rome as the 7th seed. He arrived in Rome yesterday and practiced on central court at the Foro Italico:
His projected route to the final: R1 BYE – R2 Malisse/Qualifier – R3 Almagro/Monaco – QF Nishikori/Murray – SF Tsonga/Federer – F Djokovic/Nadal
DelPo is defending R3 points from 2012, where he lost to Tsonga in straight sets. Tsonga’s win over DelPo in Rome marked his sole victory over a top 10 player that year (Tsonga went 1-12 against top 10 players in 2012). On a similar note, Murray is a career 1-13 against top 8 players on clay; his sole win was versus DelPo at Rome in 2008 (via retirement, due to a back injury from DelPo).
Unlike 2008 and 2012, however, DelPo arrives in Rome this year in healthy condition. Last year, DelPo’s knee had bothered him in his opening round win over Llodra and he played with heavy taping on the knee. DelPo should be much more well-rested this year, as his virus had forced him out of playing the Portugal Open and Madrid. However, he will need to shake off the rust quickly.
Rome is DelPo’s first tournament after his surprise loss to Nieminen in Monte Carlo. If he makes it past his R2 opponent, he will face a tough test against either Pico or Nico. DelPo has never played Nico in a tour-level match and he will need to be at his best in order to avoid an early upset. His H2H against Pico is 1-1, with Pico winning their sole encounter on clay in 2006. The hope is that he can make a strong showing and surpass his greatest result at Rome (which was a QF in 2011, where he lost in straight sets to Djokovic).
In order to fast-track his clay season prep, DelPo will be playing doubles with Baghdatis (Baghdatis also recently announced he will be working with Zelko Krajan as his coach). Team Bagh-DelPo face a tough draw. The last time DelPo played doubles with Baghdatis was at Stockholm in 2011, where they reached the SF. They make for a cheerful pair, but they will not be crowd favorites in their opening round against the Italians, Starace-Lorenzi. They are slated to face the Bryan Bros in R2 (the Bryan Bros are currently still in Madrid, where they reached the final).