First-round action in Rome will conclude on Tuesday, when Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson square off in a big-hitting contest. The second-round schedule is also getting underway, as David Goffin and Fernando Verdasco battle for another win.
(Q) Kevin Anderson vs. (16) Alexander Zverev
Another impressive result, this time at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, could propel Zverev to a top 16 seed for the French Open. The 17th-ranked German is 21-9 this season, including an especially impressive 10-3 on clay with a title in Munich. He is coming off a quarterfinal performance in Madrid, where he ousted Fernando Verdasco, Marin Cilic, and Tomas Berdych before falling to Pablo Cuevas 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Up first for Zverev in opening-round action on Tuesday is a second career showdown against Anderson, who lost their only previous encounter 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 two summers ago in Washington, D.C. Anderson has been plagued by various injuries in recent years, and he is a modest 7-7 in 2017 while struggling down at No. 63 in the rankings. The 6’8” South African showed signs of heating at the beginning of his European clay-court swing, with a third-round performance in Barcelona (lost to Rafael Nadal) and a semifinal showing in Estoril (lost to Gilles Muller). But this is a bad matchup for Anderson, as the two big hitters feature similar styles of play and right now Zverev is doing everything better.
Pick: Zverev in 2
(9) David Goffin vs. Fernando Verdasco
Goffin and Verdasco will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers on Wednesday. Verdasco is leading the head-to-head series 3-2 after prevailing 6-1, 7-6(6) early this season in Doha. They have split two previous clay-court contests, with the Spaniard getting the job done 7-6(2), 6-2 at the 2013 Madrid Masters and Goffin scoring a 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(1) victory last spring in Monte-Carlo.
Verdasco got an early start in Rome and took care of fellow lefty Donald Young 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday. The world No. 37 is a decent 15-10 this year and coming off a first-round Madrid loss to Zverev. He must win this match in order to remain in contention for a seed at the French Open. Goffin, meanwhile, would have a chance of snagging a top eight seed at Roland Garros if he reaches the final this week or wins the title. The 10th-ranked Belgian has been in stellar form on clay, with a semifinal run in Monte-Carlo and a quarterfinal finish in Madrid (lost Nadal on both occasions) as part of his 28-10 record in 2017. A confident Goffin will likely be too consistent from the back of the court for an opponent who is prone to go for too much and make unnecessary errors.
Pick: Goffin in 2