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

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

  1. RBA might be tired but I think he’ll fight like heck – this is a dangerous opponent right now for Novak. One or the other in 3 sets. Agree with Ricky that Novak needs this win – and if he makes it in 2 sets, that would be great for his confidence.

    Rafa in 2. Sock is on fumes but I give him 5-7 games.

  2. I’ve been thinking the same. Still a way to go before he strikes fear in the heart of his opponent but he has tidied up his game and reduced the careless errors.

  3. At least Novak has a pulse. He’s in better shape than Murray who seems totally lost. Novak is playing some good quality tennis but can’t sustain it.

    • Murray’s problem must be shingles which apparently saps a guy’s energy for years in some cases. So he is not back till he is back.
      Nole however is just making adjustments to balance his career and family life. His fans think of him as a machine built to win matches for them and therefore if his family life is interfering with that, he should divorce the demanding shrewish wife!But Nole knows that ultimately it is family which is important to his happiness so obviously he is looking for a team which would support him. We know how teams can sometimes become too possessive and feel the player owes them and should defer to their wisdom. It happened to Muzz when he hired Mauresmo and he had to show them who is boss.Nole will soon recover his mojo, his focus. Hope it doesn’t happen before Wimbly!!!

  4. Isner win the first set against Stan. I was wondering if Stan was ready to do something in Rome. Isner making a bit of a run here.

  5. Djokovic taking 27 secs on avergae b/w points. The nerves are there. Where is the warning though? he takes a lot of time but usually it is just below 25 secs (unless playing Rafa ).

    • He was given a warning but the poor umpire got a stream of foul mouthed abuse for his pains. Overall he was in a pretty bad mood for most of the match.

      • I am trying to remember who I picked in my bracket. I think I picked Dimi to get to the quarterfinals losing to Novak, but I am not positive.

        At least I didn’t pick Murray to go deep here. I should have taken Fog to get the win agdibst him, but I had Murray going out to Zverev.

  6. Sooner or later nadals gonna produce a surprise lose to someone unexpected. Just based on past history. Will it be jack sock? Most likely not but that’s why it’s a surprise.

      • Sam querry, trioki, pouille. People who Nadal lost to in the past year as a gigantic favorite -1000 or bigger. If Nadal can lose to these guys when it’s so least expected, sock has a shot.

        • The problem with those you mentioned is that some of them were when Rafa was in a slump the last two years. As we have seen with Novak and Murray, when a top player is in a funk they can lose to anyone.

          This is also clay and Rafa doesn’t lose to just anybody on clay.

      • I give Jack sock a 7 percent chance. A small chance is still a chance. U never know what’s sup with Nadal, he could be winning then all of a sudden his wrist can act up again.

  7. Sam if your assessment is based on ‘the years ’15 & ’16 maybe you haven’t noticed since then Rafa has been on a roll and shows no sign of faltering.

    • The main reason why I would take against Nadal today. Which I’m not by the way, I think Nadal is going to destory Jack sock. I’m pointing out that he is due for a surprise lost very soon. This has nothing to do about his current form. Nadal can have health issues at any time. Also Nadal has been playing way too much tennis recently also.

      • Suffice to say that I do not agree with you. Rafa does not have surprise losses on clay , maybe with the exception of the 2009 RG loss to Sod. But Rafa was dealing with knee tendinitis.

        Winning breeds winning and confidence. All you need to do is see how much better Rada is getting with the wins and the titles.

        You aren’t in a position to determine if Rafa has played too much. This is his time, the time when he gets his points and titles. The most important time of the year for him.

        Rafa and his team know what they are doing. He’s already done more than enough thus far. Winning Madrid was the icing on the cake.

  8. Of course an unforeseen catastrophe can never be ruled out but this is the first time for as long as anyone can remember that Rafa has been playing pain free. It will take a seismic event to deflect him from his goal.

  9. The younger players now are hitting so hard! I wonder how long they could sustain such hard hitting in their careers.

        • rc,

          Rafa is playing extremely well. But Sock has not played badly. He was broken in his first service game and that’s all Rafa needed.

          I just don’t think Sock’s power game is as effective on clay and Rafa is simply too good at the moment.

          Sock could well get the 5-7 games. I predicted either 5-7 or 8-10 in a best case scenario. But Rafa seems so focused and has had all the answers.

          I saw this Goffin lost today. I had him he ing deep here, assuming that Murray would again not get through. I didn’t anticipate Isner making a run or Delpo doing well either.

  10. Rafa is playing beautifully; good defense and offense by him, choosing the right moments to move forward into the fore court to finish the point.

  11. After gettIng the early break, Rafa is broken back. I really want Rafa to get this done on two sets and get off the court. He may have met him back in the match.

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