Preview: Monfils Returns As Italians Chase Record
Gael Monfils bids to reignite a red-hot run of early-season form when he makes his tour return at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday. The French fifth seed faces German qualifier Dominik Koepfer for a place in the third round.
In his most recent outing, Monfils let slip three match points against Novak Djokovic in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals in February. It would have been his first triumph in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series in 17 tour-level meetings.
Following a fourth-round defeat to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open, Monfils had won two titles – in Montpellier and Rotterdam – and hit a 12-match, 25-set winning streak before the World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings denied him. It was the first time he had claimed multiple titles in a season.
Qualifier Koepfer scraped back from a set down and saved a match point against Australian World No. 27 Alex de Minaur on Tuesday. It will be his first ATP Head2Head meeting with the Frenchman.
A trio of Italians – Lorenzo Musetti, Fabio Fognini and Lorenzo Sonego – stands to join compatriots Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Stefano Travaglia in the third round at home. If two advance it would set a new Open Era record for Italians through to the round of 16 in Rome.
Musetti On Wawrinka Win: ‘I’m Still Not Believing What I Did Tonight’
On Tuesday, 18-year-old qualifier Musetti sprung the upset to beat former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka to become the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP Tour match. A win in his first meeting with former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori would make him the youngest man to reach the third round in Rome since an 18-year-old Fabrice Santoro in 1991.
A right elbow injury wiped out Nishikori’s opening two months of 2020 before the tour’s COVID-19 pandemic pause. Nishikori downed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the opening round for his first match win since August 2019 on Monday.
Seventh seed Fognini returns for his 13th main draw appearance at the Foro Italico on Thursday when he meets Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the duo’s first ATP Head2Head meeting. The 33-year-old is searching for his first match win since undergoing surgery on both ankles in May.
Humbert, who started his year with a title at Auckland, comes off an opening-round win over Kevin Anderson. The third Italian in action, Sonego, takes on World No. 34 Casper Ruud in a first-time ATP Head2Head meeting.
Two US Open quarter-finalists continue their campaigns on Thursday as ninth seed Andrey Rublev takes on Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz and 12th seed Denis Shapovalov meets Spanish qualifier, Pedro Martinez – both first-time ATP Head2Head clashes. Rublev, who started the season with titles in Doha and Adelaide, downed qualifier Facundo Bagnis in his Rome debut, while Shapovalov also had the measure of an Argentine, Guillo Pella, first up.
The top-ranked Argentine, eighth seed Diego Schwartzman, takes on Australian John Millman for a place in the third round, having retired during their pair’s only prior ATP Head2Head encounter at the 2016 Australian Open. Former World No. 3 Milos Raonic – a finalist at the Western & Southern Open last month – will carry a 1-0 ledger into his showdown with Serb Dusan Lajovic.
ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2020
CENTRALE start 11:00 am
[Q] Pedro Martinez v  Denis Shapovalov
 Fabio Fognini v Ugo Humbert
Not Before 7:00 pm
[Q] Lorenzo Musetti v Kei Nishikori
PIETRANGELI start 11:00 am
 Milos Raonic v Dusan Lajovic
Not Before 7:00 pm
[Q] Dominik Koepfer v  Gael Monfils
GRAND STAND ARENA start 11:00am
 Diego Schwartzman v John Millman
Hubert Hurkacz v  Andrey Rublev
Casper Ruud v Lorenzo Sonego
Click here to view the full Internazionali BNL d’Italia Thursday schedule.