With the quarterfinals of the Italian Open beginning Friday, the question has become who can or will stop Rafael Nadal.
No. 5 Nadal will take center court versus No. 4 David Ferrer in a battle for Spanish bragging rights. Since returning from a knee injury that kept him out seven months last year, Nadal has been on a tear, winning 12 straight and 32 of his 34 matches this year.
The majority of those wins have come on clay, and there have been questions as to whether Nadal’s knee will hold up after such a blistering start to the year.
Five of the world’s top six players made it to the quarterfinals in Rome, with No. 1 Novak Djokovic starting the day against sixth ranked Tomas Berdych. The Serb has already seen his one set let evaporate after Berdych took the second sete 7-5.
Switzerland’s Roger Federer has thus far breezed through the tournament with consecutive straight-set victories. His next opponent will be Polish 22-year-old Jerzy Janowicz. The pair has never faced each other, but how Federer manages the power behind Janowicz’s 6-foot-8 frame may be the key to the match.
Ranked No. 24 in the world, the 22-year-old Janovic already dropped No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Richard Gazquet to make his second quarterfinals of the year.
Nadal and Ferrer will start their match around 10 a.m. Eastern, and Federer and Janowicz begin at 3 p.m.