A string of winning streaks is on the line as nine-time champion Rafael Nadal begins his Internazionali BNL d’Italia title defence in Rome on Wednesday. The No. 2 seed meets last week’s US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in his first clay-court match of the season.
In an all-Spanish showdown, Nadal is gunning for a perfect 6-0 ATP Head2Head record when he meets the World No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the second round. The pair most recently squared off in the third round at this year’s Australian Open, where Nadal prevailed for the loss of just seven games.
Looking for his 11th straight match win at the Foro Italico, the 34-year-old has not lost in Rome since newly crowned US Open champion Dominic Thiem beat him in the quarter-finals three years ago. Nadal will be looking for his sixth consecutive straight-sets win in his first outing since he captured the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco in March.
World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic also begins his clay-court season in Rome on Wednesday when he meets Italian wild card Salvatore Caruso in the second round. The 27-year-old Caruso saved a match point to down US qualifier Tennys Sandgren 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) for his first ATP Masters 1000 win of his career on Tuesday.
Djokovic leads the duo’s ATP Head2Head series 1-0, having defeated the Italian in the third round at Roland Garros last year. Prior to the US Open, the Serb tied Nadal’s record with a 35th Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open and in doing so completed the Career Golden Masters for the second time. No other singles player has won all nine Masters 1000 events once.
No days off for this man 🎾
🇷🇸 @DjokerNole begins his quest on Wednesday for a fifth @InteBNLdItalia title. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/Jg41EhIGDy
— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 15, 2020
Caruso is one of an Open Era record eight Italians to reach the second round in Rome. In a clash between the two most recent #NextGenATP champions, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner looks to avenge defeat to No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas from the same stage last year.
Tsitsipas went on to reach the semi-finals in Rome in 2019 in a season that also saw him land the biggest title of his career, the Nitto ATP Finals in London. The Greek arrives in the Italian capital coming off a third-round defeat to Borna Coric at Flushing Meadows, in which he let six match points slip.
🇮🇹 An Open Era-record 8️⃣ Italians are in the Rome Round of 32 🇮🇹 #IBI20 pic.twitter.com/pFWP2fDNnx
— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 16, 2020
Back in his home city, Italian No. 1 Matteo Berrettini opens proceedings on Centrale against Argentine qualifier Federico Coria. The No. 3 seed landed his biggest career victory in 2019 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia where he took down Alexander Zverev in straight sets.
It will be the pair’s first tour-level meeting, however Berrettini owns an ATP Challenger Tour win over the 28-year-old on clay. Coria defeated Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday for his first Masters 1000 main draw win.
Familiar opponents, sixth seed David Goffin and Marin Cilic, will square off for the eighth time in the second round on Wednesday. Cilic rebounded from a set down to see off Alexander Bublik on Monday, while the Belgian – who holds a 4-3 edge in their ATP Head2Head series – will contest his first match since reaching the US Open fourth round.
SELECTED MATCHES WEDNESDAY
ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2020
CENTRALE start 11:00 am
ATP –  M. Berrettini (ITA) vs [Q] F. Coria (ARG)
ATP –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [WC] S. Caruso (ITA)
WTA – V. Azarenka (BLR) vs [WC] V. Williams (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – P. Carreno Busta (ESP) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
WTA – A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs  E. Svitolina (UKR)
PIETRANGELI start 11:00 am
WTA –  B. Bencic (SUI) vs [Q] D. Kovinic (MNE)
WTA –  S. Halep (ROU) vs [WC] J. Paolini (ITA)
ATP – [WC] J. Sinner (ITA) vs  S. Tsitsipas (GRE)
ATP – [Q] M. Cecchinato (ITA) or K. Edmund (GBR) vs F. Krajinovic (SRB)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – B. Strycova (CZE) vs  K. Pliskova (CZE)
GRAND STAND ARENA start 11:00 am
ATP – M. Cilic (CRO) vs  D. Goffin (BEL)
ATP – [WC] S. Travaglia (ITA) vs B. Coric (CRO)
WTA – D. Yastremska (UKR) vs A. Anisimova (USA)
ATP –  G. Dimitrov (BUL) vs Y. Nishioka (JPN) or M. Kecmanovic (SRB)