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Nadal Eyes Eighth Rome Title As Djokovic Returns

Rome, Italy

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal will vie for an eighth Rome title next week.

World No. 2 and two-time Internazionali BNL d’Italia champion Novak Djokovic is set to make his return to the ATP World Tour next week in Rome and could face a familiar foe in Roger Federer in a semi-final battle.

Djokovic, who was forced to pull out of the Mutua Madrid Open with a right wrist injury, opens his quest for a 19th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown at the Foro Italico. The champion in 2008 (d. Wawrinka) and 2011 (d. Nadal), Djokovic finds himself in the same half of the draw as fourth-seed Federer and opens with either Pablo Andujar or Radek Stepanek, following a first round bye.

Federer, who will make a last-minute decision on his participation, following the birth of his second set of twins on Tuesday, has a potential quarter-final clash with Milos Raonic looming. The three-time finalist (2003, ‘06, ‘13) faces the winner of the first round encounter between Robin Haase and Jeremy Chardy to start his campaign.

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World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is looking to win the Rome title for the eighth time next week in Rome. The Spaniard, who could win his 27th Masters 1000 title this weekend in Madrid, is the defending champion, having lifted the trophy in 2005-’07, 2009-’10 and 2012-’13.

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Top seed Nadal will be challenged at the third Masters 1000 clay-court event of the year by chief rivals Djokovic, Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Murray.  Following a first-round bye, the Spaniard will open his campaign against either France’s Gilles Simon or Italian wild card Filippo Volandri. The left-hander is projected to meet either 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny or Fernando Verdasco in the third round.

Seventh seed Murray is in the same quarter as Nadal. The Brit, who is looking to find his form on the clay, faces a tricky opener against either Feliciano Lopez or Marcel Granollers. To set up a clash with Nadal, he would likely need to go through one of ninth seed John Isner, Jurgen Melzer or Marin Cilic.

Australian Open and Monte-Carlo champion Wawrinka heads up the second quarter of the draw. The Swiss is looking to bounce back from a shock second-round exit to Dominic Thiem in Madrid and return to winning ways at the Foro Italico, where he reached the final in 2008 (l. to Djokovic). Up first for Wawrinka will be either a qualifier or local wild card Paolo Lorenzi.

Meanwhile, No. 5 seed David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori are on a collision course for a third round duel, a rematch of their semi-final clash in Madrid. Nishikori, who will become the first Japanese to enter the Top 10 on Monday, opens with a blockbuster battle against Ernests Gulbis. He is looking to reach a third consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final.

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