The top seeds on both the men’s and women’s sides of the draw are still in contention at the Italian Open in Rome, the last major clay-court tournament before the French Open begins on May 27.
While there are two other clay-court events next week – in Lyon and Geneva – both are 250-level events, meaning only a smattering of notable players will be appearing in those tournaments. Meanwhile, most of the world’s top players are in attendance for the Italian Open, with the top seeds on both sides having reached the quarterfinals.
Nadal Brushes Aside Shapovalov
In men’s play, Rafael Nadal is once again the top seed. The Spaniard suffered his first clay court loss in a year last week at the Madrid Open, when he was defeated by Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
While that loss was undoubtedly disappointing for Nadal, it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down. Rafa had little trouble in a highly anticipated Round of 16 matchup with Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov, winning 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.
“He’s good in all aspects,” Nadal said after the match, praising his 19-year-old opponent. “The only thing he needs is a little bit more time.”
Nadal will now face off against Fabio Fognini, who has already made noise in this even by knocking off Thiem in the second round. The winner of the Nadal-Fognini match will take on either Ken Nishikori or Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
The other side of the draw is headlined by No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev. The 21-year-old German pro is establishing himself as one of the few people who might upset Nadal at the French Open, and is coming off a win in Madrid that should give him some momentum heading into Roland-Garros regardless of how he does in Rome.
Despite Zverev’s recent success, however, Nadal remains the overwhelming favorite this weekend. Nadal is a 3/10 favorite to win the Italian Open, ahead of Zverev (11/2), Djokovic (9/1) and Nishikori (18/1).
Sharapova Enjoys Practice Time with Rafa
The top seeds on the women’s side of the draw have also advanced to the final eight. No. 1 seed Simona Halep moved on to the quarterfinals after American Madison Keys withdrew with a rib injury, while No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki earned her spot after beating No. 15 seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.
Maria Sharapova has also grabbed much of the attention. The Russian has improved her form lately and is now in her second straight quarterfinal after beating Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-4. But Sharapova’s most nervous moment of the tournament may have come when she asked Nadal if she could hit some balls with him on the practice court – something she said she had to talk herself into doing.
“Let’s not get crazy. It’s not like you’re asking him to go on a date,” Sharapova joked with reporters. “You’re just asking him to hit a couple of balls with you. I was like, listen, you gotta hit a couple balls with Rafa on clay.”
Without a dominant presence like Nadal, the women’s draw is still considered wide open. Halep (5/2) is considered the favorite, but Elina Svitolina (7/2), Wozniacki (13/2) and Sharapova (13/2) are also in the mix, and none of the last eight are listed at worse than 12/1 odds.