Preview: Wawrinka makes return to clay in Rome
Stan Wawrinka begins his 16th straight Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign in Rome on Tuesday, when he meets a local 17 years his junior, Lorenzo Musetti. In a showdown between the oldest and youngest players in the field, the former World No. 3 looks to build on his winning return to clay in Prague last month.
In his first outing since March and his first at ATP Challenger Tour level in more than a decade, the Swiss won five matches – including four straight three-set clashes – to win the title in the Czech capital. His best run in the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome came in 2008, when he was runner-up to Novak Djokovic.
Italian Musetti was only three when Wawrinka made his Rome debut against Tomas Berdych in 2005. The 18-year-old World No. 249 won through three rounds of qualifying to book his home Masters 1000 main draw berth this week.
He will meet Wawrinka for the first time in just his second tour-level match. Should he beat the Swiss, he will be the first player born in 2002 with an ATP Tour win.
Another former World No. 3, Milos Raonic, makes his Rome return, having reached the semi-finals there in 2014. The 13th-seeded Canadian reached the Western & Southern Open final at Flushing Meadows leading into the US Open (l. to Djokovic).
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On Tuesday, he takes on Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Raonic leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-1, but the last meeting came nearly two years ago in Tokyo.
Three US Open quarter-finalists make the switch from hard to clay courts on Tuesday with Russian No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev, Canadian No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov and Australian Alex de Minaur all in first-round action. Following his second Grand Slam quarter-final appearance at Flushing Meadows, 22-year-old Rublev makes his Rome debut against first-time opponent, Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis.
Rublev claimed two ATP Tour titles to begin 2020 (Doha and Adelaide) and carried a 15-match winning streak to the fourth round of the Australian Open before he fell to Alexander Zverev. He arrives in Rome at a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 12 on the back of his US Open run.
Following his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in New York, Shapovalov faces Argentine World No. 37 Guido Pella in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. All three of the 21-year-old Shapovalov’s quarter-final showings in 2020 were on hard or indoor hard courts while fellow left-hander Pella’s lone quarter-final came on clay in Buenos Aires.
As the youngest Australian since Lleyton Hewitt to reach the US Open quarter-finals, De Minaur bids to carry his momentum to the Foro Italico, where he aims to win a match for the first time. The 21-year-old meets German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head clash.
Fresh from becoming the fourth first-time ATP Tour champion in Kitzbuhel on Sunday, Serb Miomir Kecmanovic brings clay-court form to Rome. The 21-year-old takes on Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka for the first time.