Day 3 Preview: Sinner, Djokovic In Rome Openers
Tuesday’s action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia features the close of the opening round and the start of the second as the likes of Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic get going in Rome. Four other Top 10 seeds are also on the Day 3 slate: Andrey Rublev and Cameron Norrie on Grand Stand Arena, and Casper Ruud and Felix Auger-Aliassime on Pietrangeli.
Four first-round doubles matches are also on tap, including the tournament opener for third seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
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 Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs. Pedro Martinez (ESP)
Home favourite Sinner seeks to improve upon his 4-3 record in Rome, where he is bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the first time. The 20-year-old San Candido native reached that stage in Monte Carlo before a third-round loss in Madrid last week. The five-time tour-level champ is seeking his first trophy of the 2022 season.
Pedro Martinez won the Santiago clay-court title in February and enters Rome at a career-high of No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. But he has come up against a string of tough opponents on the European clay swing, posting a 1-3 record dating back to Monte Carlo with losses to Hubert Hurkacz, Ilya Ivashka and Alex de Minaur. It won’t get any easier for the Spaniard in his first meeting with Sinner, who will have the full backing of the Italian crowd on Centre Court.
 Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. Aslan Karatsev
Djokovic gets an immediate chance to bounce back from his Madrid third-set tie-break loss to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz. The Serbian split two ATP Head2Head meetings with Aslan Karatsev in 2021, winning their Australian Open semi-final but losing in his home city of Belgrade at the same stage.
While the World No. 1 enters the tournament in fine form — though not at his very best, he says — Karatsev has endured a difficult stretch after winning the Sydney title in January. The 28-year-old is 3-9 following the Australian swing, with his last win coming at the Miami Open presented by Itau in March before his first-round win over Lloyd Harris, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7).
Djokovic is 6-2 across his past two events in Belgrade and Madrid as he continues to grow in confidence.
“I think it’s closer to [my] desired level every week,” he said. “Madrid, even though I lost in the semi-finals, I still think I played really good tennis. I felt physically 100 per cent, even after an almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. I recovered well the next day, was ready to go. That’s a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal, which is Paris.
“I think I’m in the right direction. I know I can always play better, and I know that I’m very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now.”
A five-time champion in Rome, Djokovic is defending 600 Pepperstone ATP Rankings points from his run to the final last year, when he lost to 10-time champ Rafael Nadal in three sets. The Serbian needs to reach the semi-finals to maintain his status as World No. 1. If he does advance to the semi-final stage, he will play for his 1,000th career win — potentially against Nadal.
 Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp (NED)
Ruud will be out for revenge in this rematch of the Munich quarter-finals last month. Botic van de Zandschulp won that matchup, 7-5, 6-1, en route to his first ATP Tour final. The Dutchman backed that up with a three-set win over home favourite Pablo Carreno Busta in Madrid before bowing out against David Goffin.
Ruud reached consecutive quarter-finals in Barcelona and Munich, falling to Carreno Busta in Spain before dropping his second meeting with van de Zandschulp. The pair also met in the second round of the 2021 US Open, where the Dutchman enjoyed a breakout run to the quarter-finals.
In his last Rome appearance in 2020, Ruud knocked out Italians Lorenzo Sonego and Karen Khachanov before losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Van de Zandschulp is making his debut in the Italian capital and got off the mark with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Sebastian Korda on Monday.
Best Of The Rest
Diego Schwartzman, seeded 12th, will contest the third men’s match on Centre Court against Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round. On Grand Stand Arena, sixth seed Rublev faces Filip Krajinovic while ninth seed Norrie faces Italian wild card Luca Nardi. Grigor Dimitrov will open play on Rome’s second stadium against American qualifier Brandon Nakashima.
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On Pietrangeli, three men’s matches will wrap up play following two WTA Tour contests. None of the six men in action will be particularly happy with their difficult draws here: Hubert Hurkacz faces David Goffin in the first round before Auger-Alaissime takes on Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second. The Ruud vs. Van de Zandschulp match serves as the nightcap.
In doubles action, Mektic and Pavic take on Lukasz Kubot and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, while fourth seeds John Peers and Filip Polasek face Andrey Golubev and Maximo Gonzalez. A pair of Italian wild-card duos will also square off as Nardi and Lorenzo Sonego take on Flavio Cobolli and Francesco Forti, all on Court 4.