Rome R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Sock, Djokovic vs. Bautista Agut

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will continue their Rome Masters campaigns during third-round action on Thursday. Nadal is facing Jack Sock, while Djokovic is going up against Roberto Bautista Agut.

(13) Jack Sock vs. (4) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Sock will be going head-to-head for the fourth time in their careers when they collide in round three of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday. All three of their previous encounters have gone the way of Nadal, although Sock has at least managed to take a set on two of three occasions. The Spaniard prevailed in four sets at the 2015 French Open, via a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 decision a few months later in Beijing, and 6-2, 6-3 earlier this season at the Miami Masters.

Nothing suggests that another clay-court matchup will help Sock turn the tide. After all, Nadal is 16-0 on the surface in 2017 with consecutive titles in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid. Although it is certainly not the way the world No. 4 would want to advance, he could use some rest right now and that is exactly what he got when countryman Nicolas Almagro retired down 3-0 in the first set on Wednesday. Sock’s road to the last 16 could not have been more different. The 14th-ranked American scraped past Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 in his opener before outlasting Jiri Vesely in a third-set tiebreaker. Sock is an outstanding 22-7 this year and says that clay his favorite surface, but a red-hot opponent and a pair of three-setters (and two doubles matches) in his legs should will not help his long-shot upset bid.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 8-10 games

Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (2) Novak Djokovic

Whereas world No. 1 Andy Murray continues to lose early at just about every tournament he enters, Djokovic is at least starting to show some signs of life as he heads into third-round action in Rome on Thursday. The second-ranked Serb got some help from Kei Nishikori in Madrid (quarterfinal walkover), but he also picked up wins over Almagro and Feliciano Lopez before playing a decent second set against Nadal in a 6-2, 6-4 loss. Djokovic advanced earlier this week by beating an in-form Aljaz Bedene 7-6(2), 6-2.

Up next for the 12-time Grand Slam champion is a seventh career meeting with Bautista Agut. Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 5-1 (including 2-0 on clay), with his lone blemish coming at the Shanghai Masters last fall. Bautista Agut gave himself another shot at the No. 2 seed thanks to victories this week over lucky loser Alexandr Dolgopolov and fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. The latter showdown lasted two hours and 38 minutes on Wednesday night and neither player looked anywhere close to fresh at the end of it. This is a good opportunity for Djokovic to continue gaining much-needed confidence.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

43 Comments on Rome R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Sock, Djokovic vs. Bautista Agut

  1. Rafa is returning from too far back! Sock knows it and thus he S&V a few points to hold serve. Rafa just doesn’t want to make changes to his return positions, not going to counter S&V from Sock from so far back.

  2. Why is Rafa always returning right back at Sock? Hitting directly to Sock’s FH is asking for troubles.

    • Well Sock got his seven games and Rafa got a straight set win. They showed the third set tb with Thiem/Querrey. Thiem fought off about three match points and won.

      So it’s Rafa and Thiem again in the quarterfinals.

  3. Vamos! great way to finish. DTL forehand winner 🙂

    Thiem saves MP to beat Querrey! The guy is TOUGH. I think he will be a bit drained now though. The guy is showing tremendous physical and mental strength.

    • I am glad that Rafa had a pretty easy time of it against Sock because he will have to battle Thiem again tomorrow.

      I don’t know if Thiem is tired or not. He seems to thrive on these tough wins. Rafa has played him enough lately to know what to expect.

      • I just saw the duration and it was a rather quick 1 hr 55 min 3-setter. I was hoping Sam would win as Thiem can engage Rafa in gruelling rallies. I am again favoring Rafa in 2 sets but Thiem had chances in Madrid and might get a set if Rafa is off. however, these conditions suit Rafa more and I expect him to win this in 2 sets.

        Delpo vs Djoko would be good as well!

        • VR, I doubt Rafa would engage in long rallies with Thiem. I think if Rafa plays like today, minus that second set lapse, I think Rafa should be able to win in straight sets.

          Thiem looked tired in his match with Querrey. Querrey had so many chances but squandered them. It’s more of Querrey’s errors than Thiem saving the MP.

      • I think Rafa will play a different match against Thiem to the one he played in Madrid. Rafa said, in his PM presser, that because of the altitude in Madrid he played Thiem differently to how he played him in Barcelona and MC.

  4. Yay Rafa!
    Yay Dominic!
    That was a 3 set battle with a TB that could have gone either way. I was kinda rooting for Sam.

    • I was hoping Querrey would win because I wanted Rafa to get another shot at him on clay. I also didn’t want Rafa to have to battle it out again with Thiem.

      It wii be interesting to see how Rafa plays him without the high altitude conditions. But I don’t expect it to be easy. Thiem has to be feeling confident after gutting out another tough win. I did not expect Querrey to make a match of it.

      I just know that Thiem will be more determined each time he plays Rafa.

  5. Sooner or later Thiem will solve the conundrum of how to beat Rafa. Just praying it won’t happen until after RG. I know he had a win against him on clay but that was early 2016 so doesn’t really count 🙂

    • Nah, not so soon, when Rafa is playing this well! It takes Fed or Stan how long to figure out how to beat Rafa on clay?

      If Thiem is determined, Rafa would be even more determined, to not let Thiem find the answer. I hope Rafa can beat Thiem in straight sets, to conserve energy for the remaining match(es).

      • Stan beat Rafa on clay during Rafa’s anus horribilis in 2015 and it was by 2 very close TBs 76(8) & 76(9) I BELIEVE.

    • Not really. Agut made it too comfortable for Djoko, merely rallying with Djoko and nothing else. It’s only nearing the end of the match that Agut decided to turn offensive and hit some hard flat shots DTL for winners. I saw that when Djoko was forced to hit his running FH, he was either late for the shot, or forced to overhit and missed it. He looked a step slow.

      Djoko is missing the precision in his shots, if you force him to hit a few more shots and make him run for them, he tends to mishit his shots. However, when in normal rallying and he’s able to control the point, he’s still striking the ball quite well and can hit the ball to land precisely on the baseline.

      I do believe the way to beat Djoko is not to engage in rallies with him; make the points short and be in attacking mode to keep Djoko constantly under pressure. Fed could do it even in 2015 when Djoko was in beast mode; I hope Rafa can do it to Djoko now.

      • I agree Luckystar. That’s exactly how Bedene played him, rallying with him and giving Djoker rhythm. That’s what Djoker likes and last time Rafa played him in Madrid, Rafa took him out of his comfort zone and Djoker didn’t know where Rafa was going next.

        I am amazed at the commies, who say Djoker is back to his best when he beat Bedene, when even I could see that both of them were merely keeping the ball in play.

  6. Nole was the beneficiary of a bad call today. But no hue and cry from the likes of Mary Carillo or Peter Bodo or from our own Guardian of Fair play ( Joe Smith). No one saying Nole should have given up the point?

        • This proves I’m a hypocrite? Really? You want me to criticize something I didn’t see?

          If you think Novak should have conceded the point why don’t you say so? Or if not, say why not. Jeesh.

          • you can say you did not see Nole’s match. But I am sure you follow Fed as closely as we Rafa fans follow Nadal. I am sure you have never proactively complained about any favors shown to Fed but when we point out, you make comments like ok if Fed was shown such a favor it is wrong. You do not even register the favors shown to Fed so you seem ignorant of them all.

            • I rather doubt that I follow Federer as closely as you and other Rafa fans on this site follow Nadal. But I am absolutely sure I am not nearly as personally invested in him as you and others here are in Nadal. He’s like a cult figure for some of you, and you react to any criticism of him with personal attacks against the person making the criticism. What’s up with that?

              You’re probably right that I’ve been ignorant of favours shown to Fed in the past, but that’s because I’ve been ignorant of such things generally. I’m a fan of Federer’s tennis, but I don’t pay attention to a lot of the other stuff that goes on. I don’t even watch his after-match interviews (usually), because I find his humblebragging a bit much to take.

              The bad call in the Rafa-Goffin match was particularly egregious, and it happened on a very important point. I have no idea whether Nole’s case was similar, but if so I would say the same thing I said about Rafa’s match.

              I’ll ask again: what is your view about it?

            • I don’t have any views. Bad calls are part of the game. Attacking Rafa was bad form. Re Fed followers, they are a cult. Not Rafa fans.

            • In what sense did I “attack” Rafa? Did I call him names? Say he was a bad person? Say he was a cheat? As far as I can tell, I’ve done two things to set you off.

              First, I expressed my opinion that he should have conceded the point to Goffin in MC. Obviously, you and many people disagree, and I can see your point. So we disagree.

              Second, I pointed out, in response to Lucky, that the organizers in Madrid had already done Rafa a favour by postponing his match against Fognini. Again, I understand your disagreement and can see where you are coming from. You, however, never seem to cede an inch, never seem to have the slightest recognition that there might be something to what I’m saying. On the other hand, you seem determined to brand me a hypocrite. Who’s doing the attacking?

            • No one in history has ever conceded a point on the other side. Just because we can see on tv replay, it doesn’t mean it is so clear to the player. Some friends of mine sitting on Nadal’s side couldn’t make out whether the ball was in or out. So to expect him to concede a point when he cannot see whether it is in or out simply because Joe Smith and Mary Carillo can see it, is truly the height of unreasonableness. Besides since the TV replay or Mary Carillo’s expectations or Joe Smith’s pov were not made available on court, Nadal would not even have known about the comments of crazy commentators and writers till after the match. Remember there is no hawkeye or replay shown on court. So your disagreement is like me saying 2+2=4 and you claiming 2+2=5 and saying you see my point but you disagree!!! In other words, your disagreement is not rational.

  7. Delpo has the ability to beat Novak, but the last few times they played he wasn’t at his best and lost, it will be interesting to see if Delpo can bring his best and get the better if Novak. While I think Novak is playing better, he has not been challenged in Rome. He also can’t sustain that high level of play.

    Delpo’ big serve and powerful forehand can shorten points and take Novak out of his rhythm. Delpo can out hit Novak from the baseline. Delpo can also play the kind of aggressive tennis to take Novak out of his comfort zone. The question is whether Delpo is playing well enough now and can implement the strategies necessary to beat Novak.

    • From what I saw of Delpo, he was still rusty. I think Djoko will edge out Delpo again, in three sets.

      • It is going to be a Rafa-Nole semi. I am really nervous. Rafa has declared that he will try to be more aggressive in his matches. But I am more worried about RG.

  8. I’m finally sitting down watching the Novak v RBA match on TC. Maybe I’ change my mind that Delpo is going to win their QF.

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