Men and Women’s big guns in action at Rome Open
All the attention has been on Andy Murray (7/1 to win the French Open) in the last two weeks, after the Scot claimed his first two clay court titles, the latter of which he defeated Rafael Nadal for at the Madrid Masters.
However, now it is time for world number one Novak Djokovic to show what he can do at the Rome Open, after he chose to skip the event in Spain.
The Serb (1/33 odds-on favourite with Coral), along with the top eight seeds, was given a bye into the second round, and faces clay court specialist Spaniard Nicolas Almagro (10/1) up first.
Almagro, who is the current world number 174 but qualifies through the tournament’s protected ranking system, has beaten Djokovic before, though it was way back in 2004 at the Manerbio Challenger event, which he went on to win.
Top seed and defending champion Djokovic has been victorious in their following three meetings, all on hard courts, and is a more enticing 9/2 chance to triumph 2-1.
Murray (1/8 odds-on favourite for victory), meanwhile, fresh from his double success in Madrid and the German Open, opens his tournament in Italy’s capital against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy (9/2).
Thrice runner-up of this event Roger Federer (1/6) and seven-time champion Nadal (1/50) will begin their campaigns against respective opponents Pablo Cuevas (7/2) and Marsel Ilhan (12/1).
Other top names in action include Tomas Berdych (1/33), Kei Nishikori (1/12) and Mario Cilic (4/6), who face wildcard Matteo Donati (10/1), Jiri Vesely (6/1) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (11/8) respectively.
There will be a few closer battles as well, as Sam Querrey (2/1) is up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (4/11), Feliciano Lopez (11/8) tackles Nick Kyrgios (8/15) and Bernard Tomic (11/10) duels with Viktor Troicki (4/6).
In the Women’s draw, Serena Williams will be aiming for her fourth, and third-straight, Rome Open title, after being knocked out earlier than she would’ve liked at the Madrid Masters. The American great (1/10) kicks off in Italy against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (11/2), who knocked out Sam Stosur in the first round.
This duo have faced each other four times before, with Williams winning all of them, including two on clay, so is 1/3 for victory in straight sets.
Double Rome Open champion Jelena Jankovic (8/11) is also in action, and faces Italian Camila Giorgi (evens).
Other top names that should make light work of their encounters include Romania’s finest Simona Halep (1/10), Petra Kvitova (1/9), Eugenie Bouchard (4/7) and Victoria Azarenka (1/16). They face respective unfancied quartet Alison Riske (11/2), Karin Knapp (5/1), Zarina Diyas ((5/4) and Casey Dellacqua (7/1).