Rafael Nadal has yet to take the court in Rome, and he potentially has a long road ahead of him if he wants to win another tournament. The King of Clay will be a heavy favorite when he begins play in the Italian Open on Wednesday, but that won’t be the case as he continues to make his way towards the finals.
After getting a bye in the first round, Nadal is set to take on Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round on Wednesday. Kohlschreiber defeated Inigo Cervantes in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, setting up a match with the No.5 player in the world.
It wasn’t long ago that Nadal and Kohlschreiber last met. Nadal was victorious in the semifinals of the Brisbane Open less than a month ago, defeating Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-3. Nadal went on to beat Kei Nishikori and win the tournament, giving him a second straight victory.
Winning consecutive titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal didn’t have to defeat a top-four player. Unless the Italian Open is filled with upsets, that won’t be the case if Nadal hopes to win the championship in Rome.
For the first time ever, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are all in the same half of the draw. That means Nadal will likely have to run through both players on his way to the finals. A match with Djokovic could be awaiting Nadal in the quarterfinals, and he could face Federer in the semifinals, if he's fortunate enough to advance that far.
The Italian Open has been dominated by Nadal and Djokovic since 2005. Nadal has seven titles during that time, and Djokovic has won four championships, including the last two in Rome. The world’s top player defeated Nadal in the 2014 finals, returning the favor from 2012.
If Nadal can make his way to the finals, another meeting with Andy Murray could await him. Murray stopped Nadal’s run at the Madrid Open last week, defeating him 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals. Should they meet in central Italy, Nadal won't have a home crowd on his side.
But first, Nadal must take care of business with Kohlschreiber. The Tennis Channel has coverage of the Italian Open on TV starting at 6 a.m. ET, and a free live stream will be available online with Tennis Channel Everywhere.
A win over Kohlschreiber would set up a match between Nadal and either Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios.