2024 Rome Open (Italian Open) ATP PREVIEW: Novak Djokovic leads field riddled by injury withdrawals to top names

Monday, 06 May 2024 at 17:33
With the draw now complete, the Rome Open will begin for the men on May 8 running until May 19 with Novak Djokovic leading the way in what is a depleted field mainly due to injuries. In comes the World No.1 though after not playing for a while as he looks to sweep up.
Djokovic ironically leads the field with Rafael Nadal alongside him with the duo set to play a tournament together for the first time since the latter returned to action in January. Daniil Medvedev is defending champion, but himself is not 100%. Our preview looks ahead to the tournament with the main storylines and takeaways ahead of the action starting at Foro Italico.

Five-time champion Djokovic aims to begin the great sweep up as rivals fall

One of the remaining records on Djokovic's resume is the Rome Open but he is not likely to get to Rafael Nadal's 10 titles with the latter having his next grand farewell in Rome. Both have had supreme records over the years in Italy and will anchor the coverage with the main home hope falling by the wayside.
Much of the conjecture and debate going into Roland Garros has stemmed around Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. But both have stalled just as Djokovic returns ahead of Roland Garros. Sinner in particular has a hip injury that is keeping him away and is serious enough that he is doubting whether he will even play at Roland Garros.
Great hope for Djokovic as Sinner and Alcaraz head into Roland Garros injured and devoid of form.
Carlos Alcaraz is more likely precaution with his forearm still not right and with the way the two week Masters tournaments work, he will want to get himself right for Roland Garros. Daniil Medvedev couldn't feel his legs in his match against Jiri Lehecka and handed him a walkover so his title defence isn't off to the best start. The player who he defeated in last year's final Holger Rune is also in torrid form. This leaves one man to mop up: Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic has not been in great form this year but hasn't played a lot of matches to base this form on. It is unsure whether he will have a coach though in Rome with Nenad Zimonjic hinting their partnership had ended. He has gone through a lot of changes with his team and having not played since Monte-Carlo has been fairly quiet. But this is ominous for a player of Djokovic's calibre. As he targets Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games as a trio before the US Open, he will look to make his first dent in Rome. A tournament he loves.

Who rivals him? Tsitsipas? Ruud? Nadal?!

But while Djokovic stands out as the top player mainly based off all of his rivals being injured, there is a crop of players who could challenge him.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud didn't perform in Madrid, but both have been the standouts of the clay court season thus far. They battled in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona finals and especially Ruud is known as a real clay court stand-out so they will likely figure this week. Especially in absence of the big names.
Tsitsipas could be buoyed too. He split from Paula Badosa after just under a year of dating and could either help him or hinder him depending on how the relationship ended. But who else is relevant? Andrey Rublev could be. But whether he plays after winning Madrid is another thing. He had to go back to hospital after winning the title suffering from a virus which made his run even more remarkable. Rafael Nadal is more of a pipe dream. But the 10-time champion will aim for a real farewell and to ramp up his preparation for Roland Garros. Winning a few matches every week, could we really see a defining run here?

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