The French Open storylines to keep an eye on in Rome
With Roland-Garros just around the corner, there is some speculation as to what more we can find out about the players on the circuit before the second Grand Slam of the season. The Madrid Open was particularly revealing in many ways, with failure for Rafael Nadal in his home country and still no clear favourite on the women’s side.
All focus is on the Rome Open this week, the final Masters 1000 tournament that sees all the big names arrive in Italy ready for one last showdown as they try and refine their style on clay.
The winner is a pretty good indicator of who is in form right now. Since 2005, Alexander Zverev and Andy Murray have won it in addition to Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have several titles each. Serena Williams has also been winning plenty of trophies in Rome over the last decade, and all these players will feel they have a chance once more.
There is a train of thought that most questions will be answered before getting to Rome, but this does not seem to be the case this year, with nobody looking quite as dominant as anyone else.
Although Djokovic won the Madrid Open last weekend, he has not been firing on all cylinders since he stormed to the Australian Open in January, and he faced surprising early exits in both Miami and Indian Wells.
Nadal is normally known as king on this surface, and he has dominated European clay for quite some time. However, a collection of injuries may well be taking their toll, and there are some new players who are not afraid to play him at his own game.
Serena Williams has touched back on clay for the first time this season, and Rome is usually a good destination for her. She has won here four times, and two of these wins have preceded her winning the French Open title.
However, she has barely played recently, and many sports betting fans and pundits are wondering whether she has her head in the game. There are plenty of challengers for the crown this year, and Naomi Osaka will be hoping to shake off her recent inconsistencies with three majors in a row, but she will need to find a way to get more points on the board before her rhythm is disrupted.
Should Williams continue to progress, we will find out how capable she is of competing against the best players in the game right now, with Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens in her way by the quarter-final stage and with Kiki Bertens and Osaka her potential opponents if she makes it to the final.
What happens here could well shine a light on how things might pan out in Paris from 26 May.
Words: Danielle Nixon