Friday marked the release of the ATP and WTA draws for next week’s big Italian Open in Rome. For both tours, it’s the last significant tournament before Roland Garros and a final chance to move up the rankings before seeding is finalized.
On the men’s side, it’s the craziest draw of the season. As Rafael Nadal continues his charge toward the all-important No. 4 ranking, he was dealt a blow of bad luck, landing in Novak Djokovic’s quarter. The short version of the point math is that Nadal will almost certainly need to beat Djokovic either in Sunday’s Madrid final or next week in Rome to ensure his own quarter of the Roland Garros draw.
Nadal (seven titles) and Djokovic (four, including the last two) have combined to claim the last 11 championships in Rome, and they’re not alone in that quarter, either. Djokovic could play Gael Monfils in the round of 16, while Nadal will likely face the winner of Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios. Nadal and Kyrgios have not played since the young Australian’s win at Wimbledon in 2014.
After withdrawing in Madrid, Roger Federer was handed a similarly difficult path in Rome. The arduous road to defending his 2015 finalist points includes Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and then either Djokovic or Nadal. Rome is one of just three top events Federer has yet to win in his career (Monte-Carlo and Olympic singles).
Per the ATP, it’s the first time that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have all been on one side of a draw.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray has wide open spaces in the bottom half of the draw, where he is joined by Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and David Goffin.
As for the women, 3-time Rome champion Serena Williams is also set to return to the court and make her 2016 clay debut. In the tougher half, she could face Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16, Simona Halep in the quarters and Victoria Azarenka (if she plays) in the semis. The bottom half features Angie Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Venus Williams.