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Rome Draw Preview: Nadal, Federer Pitched Together In Top Half

Rome, Italy

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is an overwhelming favourite to earn his fifth Rome title in six years.

The 75th edition of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, the fourth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, features a new 10,500-seat Centre Court at the Foro Italico in Rome.
 
This year's 56-player field features 13 of the Top 17 players, including seven of the Top 10. Leading the way are World No. 1 and two-time runner-up Roger Federer, No. 2 and '08 champion Novak Djokovic and No. 3 and four-time winner Rafael Nadal. Federer and Nadal are in the same half of the draw and could meet in the semi-finals. Only once in their past 11 meetings since 2007 have they met before the final ('07 Tennis Masters Cup semi-finals). Nadal owns a 13-7 career advantage (9-2 on clay) and Federer won their last meeting in the final of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid in May 2009.

Nadal opened his clay-court campaign with a record sixth-straight title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, dropping only 14 games en route to his 16th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. He and Federer are one title away from tying Andre Agassi's record of 17 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles (since 1990).

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Nadal is an overwhelming favourite to earn his fifth Rome title in six years. Last year he became the first player in the Open Era to win four titles in Rome as he defeated Djokovic in the final. The 23-year-old Spaniard has a 22-1 career mark in Rome with his only loss coming to countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round two years ago.

Federer, who is making his season debut on clay, is the top seed and No. 1 for the 280th week (as of Monday). He takes on the winner of Marcos Baghdatis - Ernests Gulbis in his opening-round match (Baghdatis leads 4-0). Baghdatis defeated the Swiss in their last meeting in the third round in Indian Wells last month while Gulbis lost in three sets in Doha in January.

The first seed Federer could meet is No. 15 Sam Querrey in the third round (Federer leads 2-0). In the quarter-finals, Federer could meet No. 8 Marin Cilic (Federer leads 1-0) or No. 11 Ivan Ljubicic (Federer leads 12-3, 0-1 on clay). Cilic plays the winner of Benjamin Becker - Feliciano Lopez and Ljubicic opens with Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu (tied 2-2). Unseeded Nicolas Almagro, a two-time quarter-finalist in Rome, is also a potential QF opponent (Federer leads 5-0, 3-0 on clay).

In the second quarter of the draw, Nadal after a bye, opens with the winner of Pablo Cuevas - Philipp Kohlschreiber (Cuevas leads 1-0). Nadal has never played Cuevas and is 5-0 lifetime (2-0 on clay) against the German. In the third round, Nadal's first seeded opponent is No. 16 Juan Monaco (Nadal leads 2-1, both wins on clay). Monaco will have a tough first-round match (leads 3-2) against Igor Andreev, who won the last meeting in Rome two years ago.

In the quarter-finals, Nadal could meet No. 5 seed Robin Soderling or No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Soderling, who ended Nadal's 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros last year, is 2-3 against the Spaniard but has won the past two meetings. The Swede opens against the winner of Paolo Lorenzi - Albert Montanes. Berdych takes on a qualifier in the first round and possibly the winner of Jurgen Melzer-Stanislas Wawrinka in round two (Melzer leads 1-0). Nadal is 7-3 against Berdych (3-0 on clay).         

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 4 seed Andy Murray looks to break a three-match losing streak when he takes on the winner of Italians Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini (Seppi leads 2-0). Murray lost in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells and back-to-back opening-round matches in Miami and Monte-Carlo. Murray, who is 1-4 lifetime in Rome, is 3-1 against Seppi and 1-1 against Fognini.

The first seed Murray could take on is No. 13 David Ferrer in the third round (tied 1-1). The Spaniard opens with Evgeny Korolev. Ferrer, who reached the semi-finals in 2005, has lost four straight opening-round matches since then in Rome. In the quarter-finals, Murray's possible opponents include No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Murray leads 2-1) or No. 12 Juan Carlos Ferrero (Murray leads 3-0). Tsonga plays the winner of Viktor Troicki - Thiemo de Bakker while Ferrero opens with a qualifier. If Tsonga-Ferrero meet in the third round, the Frenchman has won two of the previous three meetings.

In the final quarter, No. 2 Djokovic opens against the winner of countryman Janko Tipsarevic and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy (Tipsarevic leads 2-0). Djokovic, who is 11-2 in Rome, won both previous meetings against Tipsarevic, and all three encounters with Chardy. In the third round, Djokovic could take on No. 14 seed and big-serving American John Isner. Djokovic prevailed in five sets in the fourth rubber of their first-round Davis Cup tie in Belgrade last month. Isner plays Argentine Horacio Zeballos in the first round and top Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci is a possible second round opponent.

In the quarter-finals, Djokovic could face No. 6 Fernando Verdasco (Djokovic leads 5-3) or No. 9 Mikhail Youzhny (Djokovic leads 4-3, never on clay). Verdasco plays the winner of Simone Bolelli and a qualifier in his first match. Youzhny opens with Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who has won three of the previous four meetings (first on clay).

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