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Rome Masters kicks off as stars ready themselves for French Open

After a thrilling Madrid Masters that saw Andy Murray end king of clay Rafael Nadal’s reign in Spain in thrilling fashion, while Petra Kvitova claimed her second title in the women’s event, tennis’ top stars now travel to the Rome Open.

The Italian capital competition will feature the vast majority of the world’s best players, as they nervously prepare themselves for the French Open in a fortnight’s time.

On day one, the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, John Isner and Richard Gasquet are in action in the men’s singles section, while British hope Heather Watson, Sam Stosur, Venus Williams and Sabine Lisicki highlight the Women’s event.

Bulgarian Dimitrov (1/6 odds-on favourite with Coral) is on early on Monday, and faces arguably the toughest tests of the first round as he goes up against fellow prospect Jerzy Janowicz (7/2).

This duo have faced each other just once before, last year at the Cincinnati Masters, with the giant Pole winning in three sets. Janowicz is a tempting 13/2 to triumph by that scoreline again, while Dimitrov is priced at 11/4 for a 2-1 victory.

Later on in the day, another giant of a player Isner (1/4) is in action, as the American Joao Sousa (5/2). Isner had a good run at the recent Madrid Masters, reaching the quarters, and is a more enticing 4/5 price to win 2-0.

Gasquet should walk over Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano, who is ranked just inside the top 200 in the world, and is priced heavily odds-on at 1/20 to knock him out.

Fabbiano, though, has tasted success on clay courts before, as he won the Junior French Open doubles title back in 2007. The 25-year-old is an 8/1 shout if you fancy him to cause a shock.

Other names to look out for in the Men’s draw include home hopes Simone Bolelli (8/13) and Fabio Fognini (1/3), who face Dominic Thiem (6/5) and Steve Johnson (9/4) respectively.

Argentine veteran Juan Monaco (4/11), who has reached the French Open fourth round twice, meanwhile, is up against Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic, who has also made it top that stage at Roland Garros. The latter is a tempting 2/1 to cause an upset.

In the Women’s draw, Guernsey-born Watson (6/5) will be hoping to get some form under her belt, but is not fancied in her first round match against Italian Roberta Vinci (8/13). Watson won their most recent meeting, though, this year in Hobart, and is 7/2 to edge the encounter 2-1.

German Lisicki is a tempting 5/4 shout against American Sloane Stephens (4/7), while 1999 champion Venus Williams is odds-on to beat Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakova (9/4).

Elsewhere on day one, Stosur (4/11) is up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2/1), with the winner to face defending champion Serena Williams, and Bologna-born Sara Errani (1/5) faces Daniela Hantuchova (10/3).