First Round Battles in Rome

Roberto Bautista Agut vs Alex de Minaur

It is going to be a good battle between two of tennis’ toughest baseline players. I do think this could be a big opportunity for Alex to get a win and hopefully some momentum going, he impressed me in Barcelona recently but good runs are few and far between. This year he has 17 wins to 9 defeats, he is almost averaging 2 wins and 1 defeat per tournament.

Agut hasn’t seen his clay court season get going yet. He opened his season well but has had some niggling problems but we know he can turn on the style and be tough to move. That for me is the most important thing I am looking for from Alex, he has to move him and look for quicker points. The scrambling and speed is good on the eye but not always on the score board.

Emma Raducanu vs Bianca Andreescu

For a round one encounter this isn’t bad at all. Two players who won the US Open on their debut and I hope are at the top of women’s tennis for years to come. Emma is new to do this surface and to her credit has settled really well on the clay courts across Europe, Bianca we do forget sometimes this is new for her as well as she will likewise debut here in Rome.

It’s a tough one to call, Emma does have form on her side, Bianca has made a strong return to tennis and has put on some good performances including her first top ten win since 2019 but I’m hoping for a really competitive and compelling match. I’m interested to see how the two players use their forehands and who can control those early rallies.

Fabio Fognini vs Dominic Thiem

In a previous piece I did say, no match at a Masters 1000 is easy and I thought maybe Dominic Thiem might be better off playing elsewhere in his hunt for form?

The Austrian hasn’t won a match in a year, since his comeback he has lost four on the bounce and it will be tough to see him maybe lose a fifth.

Fabio is unpredictable, this is in front of home fans and it can go either of two ways for the Italian. I’m not his biggest fan but when all is said and done he will be one of tennis’ greatest underachievers in terms of results with his talent. He has 12 wins in 26 matches in Rome and has lost seven times in the first round.

Naomi Osaka vs Sara Sorribes Tormo

Naomi probably looked at this draw and sighed, with full respect Sara must be a nightmare to play against. She get’s all the balls back and doesn’t give anything away.

Naomi is experienced on the tour but not on clay. Surprisingly she has only played 37 times on the surface winning 21 and losing 16, she has spoken about adapting more to the clay and watching Rafa as for some it is a tough transition.

These two met recently in Rome, Sara won 6-3 6-1 and hit 3 unforced errors and 3 winners in the whole match, she just keeps the ball in and makes you make the first move.

Diego Schwartzman vs Miomir Kecmanovic

It has as it usually has been a successful clay court season for Diego who leads the tour with wins but his exit from Madrid was unexpected and one-sided but you have to praise Grigor Dimitrov in his 6-0 6-3 demolition of the Argentine.

His opponent Miomir Kecmanovic has been in good form this season and slightly under the radar. The Serbian who is 22 is ranked at 32 with 23 wins and 10 defeats to his name this season. He has made at least the final eight of 6 of his last 7 events and will have a big chance of causing an upset here but Diego does play well in Rome…

Coco Gauff vs Angie Kerber

In terms of consistency I do think Coco Gauff is doing fine on the tour, it was only two months ago she turned 18 and is getting good results but still looking for another level. The American impressed me in Madrid but a good position nosedived and she lost to Halep in straight sets. It meant that for the 7th time this season the American she had failed to win after losing the first set which is a problem.

Kerber on her day is a tough opponent, the German however hasn’t won a match on tour since 14th of March, a day after Coco Gauff turned 18 and is on a three match losing streak. Last year Coco was impressive on her way to the final four but this is a big match between two players ranked inside the top 20.

Hubert Hurkacz vs David Goffin

Nothing could bring more smiles to faces than David Goffin playing well on a clay court. He will probably look back with regret as he was a point away from knocking out Rafael Nadal in Madrid and went onto lose in three epic close sets of tennis.

Whilst he is having a good run of form his opponent Hubert Hurkacz is having a very strong season and I think he is benefiting from the doubles he is playing with John Isner.

It will be a fascinating match, Hurkacz doesn’t have to move much it feels to hit some big groundstrokes and cover the ground but watching Goffin glide across the court with his forehand is one of my favourite sights in tennis.

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