The Rome Masters tennis tournament returns to the Foro Italico in May 2019.
Fashion, food and high-octane sport once again blend together under the late spring sunshine as the Italian Open tennis returns the Foro Italico.
The tournament, also known as the Rome Masters, will see the world’s best male and female players battling it out for top glory on the red clay courts of Rome.
This year’s competition will run from 12 May to its grand finale one week later on 19 May. The prestigious event, just one of three clay court events on the worldwide Masters tour, is easy to access, with a range of ticket prices from a ground pass to the exclusive seats at the grandstand.
And as well as the joys of the on-court action, organisers state the event will once again be “more than just tennis” – showing off the best of Italy throughout the statue-filled location next to the Stadio Olimpico.
There will be celebrity musical performances as well as fashion outlets dotted around the grounds, while the leading tennis brands will showcase their ranges.
In the men’s singles, reigning champion Rafael Nadal will once again be the man to beat, having dominated events on the clay courts since he arrived onto the world stage as a fresh-faced teenager in 2005. The Spanish superstar has taken the title away from the Eternal City on a record eight occasions, including last time around when he defeated young star Alexander Zverev in a thrilling final.
Nadal may now be 32 but there is little sign that he is slowing down or losing his touch and he will once again be the man to watch at the Foro Italico due to his tenacious style on the clay court.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner, including 11 title victories at the French Open, continues to possess the most feared all-round game on the clay courts, with his ability to stand deep behind the baseline and hit winner after winner.
However, Nadal’s supreme ability is just a part of one of the greatest eras the sport has witnessed, playing alongside the great Roger Federer as well as Serbian machine Novak Djokovic and Great Britain’s history-maker Andy Murray.
Unfortunately, Murray, who won the title in Rome in 2016, will miss the Italian Open due to a long-term injury that is threatening to put an early end to his career.
And sadly Federer has also decided to swerve the tournament in Rome for a fourth year running. The 36-year-old had given hope to fans after announcing that he would make a reappearance on clay in 2019 to aid his preparations for the Olympic Games in 2020. However, the Swiss legend has opted to play at the Madrid Masters, also on clay, instead of featuring in Rome.
That leaves just Nadal and four-time Rome winner Djokovic of the so-called “Big Four” competing in this year’s men’s singles championship. A host of other world stars in the 64-player draw will join the pair, with Zverev leading a younger contingent trying to take over from the veteran cohort.
Included in the mix is the fiery Italian Fabio Fognini, who specialises on the red clay courts. The 31-year-old, who has won eight tour titles during his 15-year professional career, is currently ranked 17th in the world standings and will be hoping that Italian support can lift him towards a first success on home soil.
Fognini’s Italian lower-ranked colleagues Matteo Berrettini, Marco Cecchinato, Andreas Seppi and Lorenzo Sonego will also be bidding to use the will of the crowd to advance through the early rounds.
The women’s singles event has seen a dominant force roll into Rome for the past two years in the shape of Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who first won the Italian Open in 2017. She returned to make a successful defence of her crown 12 months ago with a stunning straight sets victory over the higher ranked Simona Halep (6-0 6-4), of Romania, in the final.
It was the second time in a row the two had met in the final, with Halep having thrown away a winning position in 2017 as Svitolina came back to win in the deciding third set. Unlike Nadal, Svitolina has struggled to transfer her form in Rome onto the wider world tour, with the women’s scene far more open than the men’s game.
That said, all eyes in Rome will be on the playing form of one woman, following the return of arguably the greatest women’s player of all time, Serena Williams, this season.
Williams has claimed the trophy in Rome on four occasions, with her first success dating back to 2002. The 37-year-old won three titles in four years between 2013 and 2016, including a final victory over Italy’s Sara Errani in 2014.
A success this time around would give Williams another record, as she would tie alongside Chris Evert as a five-time winner of the Italian Open.
Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who has lifted the trophy on three occasions in Rome since 2011, pulled out of this year's competition at the last minute due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Of the rest of the field, Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitová provides an interesting side story as she continues her return to the top of the game after being stabbed in the hand during a break-in at her home. Kvitová reached the final of the Australian Open in January where she was beaten in a fiercely fought contest with Japanese star Naomi Osaka.
On the domestic front, Italy’s women players have struggled to break through into the top echelons of the game this season and none has reached a quarterfinal on the Women’s Tennis Association tour.
Errani, a winner of nine career titles, presents the best hope for an Italian winner, although she has struggled to find her best form since being banned in 2017 for a failed drugs test.
As well as the singles matches, the courts will be filled with action in both the men’s and women’s doubles towards the latter end of the week.
Colombian pair Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah will defend their title in the men’s competition after beating Spain’s Pable Carreño Busta and Portugal’s João Sousa in a deciding tiebreak in last year’s final.
Australian rising star Ashleigh Barty partnered Dutch player Demi Schuurs to glory in the women’s doubles, with Czech pair Andrea Sestini Hlaváčková and Barbora Strýcovà returning as last year’s beaten finalists.
Feast of tennis
The annual event provides a feast of tennis throughout the fortnight at Foro Italico – with the action seriously hotting up towards the final rounds on 17-19 May.
Tickets are generally readily available for the earlier rounds – but book in advance for the best matches at the end of the tournament.
There are two main courts, the grandstand and the NextGen Arena – which focuses on the best up-and-coming talent – with plenty of “outside” courts for viewing on the stone walls with a simple ground pass.
For full details including tickets and programme, see website.
By Ed White
This article was published in the May 2019 edition of Wanted in Rome magazine.
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2019 Italian Open Tennis in Rome
Viale del Foro Italico, 00135 Roma RM, Italia