Dimitrov-Nishikori, Nadal, Del Potro Lead Busiest Day Yet In Rome
If Kei Nishikori, during his brief time away last year, had forgotten about how cruel the draws of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments can be, he has been reminded often so far this year.
His tough luck continues on Wednesday in Rome when the No. 24 player in the ATP Rankings faces third seed Grigor Dimitrov at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, the season's third and final Masters 1000 tournament on clay.
Nishikori, though, might have a different take on the second-round matchup. The Japanese right-hander leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-1, although the two have never played on clay.
Nishikori, a two-time clay-court titlist, has to be feeling confident about his tennis. During his first tournament on the European red clay this year, he reached his fourth Masters 1000 final, falling to Rafael Nadal in Monte-Carlo.
Nishikori had to retire after nine games in Barcelona and then lost a tight one against Djokovic 7-5, 6-4. He beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez in straight sets to start his stay in the Italian capital.
Dimitrov, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, has also posted deep runs on clay this year, making the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and the quarter-finals in Barcelona. But the No. 4 player in the ATP Rankings said he's still searching for a more consistent level.
“I think I've been hitting the ball well, but still I feel I haven't found my game right now. So, for sure, I'm not at my best right now. But that's OK... Hopefully, in the next couple of days I can really step out there and raise my game a little bit more,” Dimitrov said.
“I'm positive. I think my mental state is pretty good, so I'm just going to try to get better on that note.”
The two kick off ATP World Tour action on Next Gen Arena and will be just one of more than a handful of enticing matchups scheduled for day four in Rome.
Top seed Nadal begins his attempt to win a record eighth Rome title against Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have split their two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, but Nadal won their most-recent contest at the 2018 Australian Open in straight sets.
Mutua Madrid Open finalist Dominic Thiem kicks off play on Centrale against Italian Fabio Fognini, who always seems to raise his level in Rome. Last year, Fognini celebrated his first win against a No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings when he beat Andy Murray.