Pietrangeli court in Italy

Photo : Internazionali BNL d’Italia

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Internazionali BNL d’Italia – Rome ATP/WTA 1000

In the final clay-court ATP and WTA 1000 tournament of this year, the best players in the world gather in Rome, Italy, before they meet again in Paris for the French Open. With some players still struggling with form and others finding their best game in the European clay, Rome will set the stage for great battles in the week ahead.

Most of the world’s top players feature in the singles and doubles draws this week. World No. 1’s Ashleigh Barty and Novak Djokovic, who have their positions secured regardless of their results in Rome, look to cement their places as the favourites according to the ranking systems. Both the WTA’s and ATP’s World No. 2’s are struggling to find their footing on the clay, as Naomi Osaka and Daniil Medvedev are yet to make a move on the surface and win a big title.

Auger Aliassime serving on clay
Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

On the Canadian side, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov lead the cohort. Auger-Aliassime has made it past Filip Krajinovic in the first round and faces No. 8-seeded Diego Schwartzman next. The Argentinian made the final in Rome last year, with spectacular wins over Rafael Nadal and Shapovalov. The latter is back as the No. 13 seeded player, and opens his campaign against qualifier Kamil Majchrzak.

Doubles specialist Gaby Dabrowski is also back in action in Rome, now partnering up with American Asia Muhammad. Dabrowski has been in great form lately, having reached the final match in Madrid last week.

Dabrowski practices her backhand on clay
Photo : Mutua Madrid Open

Unfortunately, Bianca Andreescu was again forced to withdraw due to quarantine protocols in Italy. She is, however, fully recovered now and will be hitting the clay courts of Strasbourg next week before competing at Roland Garros!

In case you missed it

Madrid WTA

In a week filled with epic matches and the best tennis anyone can ask for, thw WTA event reached its climax in an intense rematch between Australia’s Ash Barty and now World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka started the match in the best way possible, missing very few shots and hitting with intent from the baseline.

Her incredible power and great touch with drop-shots kept Barty off balance, as the Belarussian closed the set with a bagel, compiling a near-perfect 11/1 winners-to-unforced-errors ratio. Barty, who just beat Sabalenka in a three-set final in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, found her game in the second set, though, taking it 6-3.

Sabalenka holds madrid trophy
Photo : Mutua Madrid Open

In a crucial game at the beginning of the final set, Sabalenka held serve from 15-40 down and found another gear to win the last 11 points of the match to exact revenge against Barty and lift the Madrid trophy, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4.

Madrid ATP

The men’s draw in Madrid was full of upsets and younger players making strides towrads the top of the game. World No. 6 Alexander Zverev was victorious, most notably stoppig Rafael Nadal’s camapaign to his first Masters 1000 title since winning the National Bank Open in 2019 on the way.

The German also cut short Dominic Thiem’s comeback in the semi-finals, and came back from a set down against Serbia Open champion Matteo Berrettini in the final. The Madrid Open title is Zverev’s first ATP Masters 1000 title in exaclty three years, having won the crown also in 2018.

Zverev and Berrettini hold the Madrid trophy and runner up plate, respectively
Photo : Mutua Madrid Open

This past week brought two important shifts in the men’s rankings: Medvedev got back to his World No. 2 status despite not having a strong showing since the clay season started, just a week after Nadal reclaimed the position with the title in Barcelona.

The other important movement saw John Isner dropping out of the world’s Top 30, thus making this the first time ever there was no American male player ranked inside the group. However, the American had a good week overall, overcoming Andrey Rublev in a final-set tie-break, despite having won fewer points than his opponent.

Under the radar

Carol Zhao fights back

Canada’s Carol Zhao, who is in the process of climbing up the rankings since an injury forced her out of the tour in 2018, is enjoying a great amount of success in the ITF tournaments. After falling to World No. 430 from a career high of No. 131, Zhao has claimed almost 60 positions after strong performances in Portugal and Ecuador, reaching the final in South America.

The Canadian reached the semi-finals and finals in two consecutive weeks, coming back from a set deficit in five matches, and almost a sixth time in her semi-final loss in Portugal. We can expect many more great results from her soon!

Canadians this week

Katherine Sebov and Filip Peliwo will try to qualify for ITF events this week. Peliwo has got two wins already and plays the final round on Tuesday early morning to qualify, while Sebov starts her quest for her place in the main draw today.

Follow all Canadian action here.