Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's like schooltime at the Italian Open for the men

The draw at the Italian Open has some pretty great round of 16 matches on the men's side: I feel this round is one of the strongest at a Masters 1000 event all year.

And call me crazy, but for some reason, I think these head-to-heads will reveal a lot about some players and where they're at and going in the months ahead.

Case in point: I see a lot of ramifications in that Novak Djokovic and Juan Monaco matchup. Djokovic's year so far hasn't exactly matched up to the incredible 2011 at this point. Monaco's playing some of the best tennis of his career so far in '12. This is a great test for both of them: For Novak, it could only boost his confidence heading into the French and for Monaco, a win could prove that he's on the right track to the top 10.

And how about Andy Murray vs. Richard Gasquet? Murray's coming off an injury and Gasquet is looking solid so far on the dirt. Tomas Berdych, runner-up last week in Madrid and a former French Open semifinalist, goes up against Nicolas Almagro for what seems like the 12th time this year. A win for either one of them solidifies their chances as French Open darkhorses.

You even have an unseeded match that really bears watching with implications going into the weeks ahead: Andreas Seppi vs. Stanislas Wawrinka. Neither one of them are players a big guy wants to see early on at the French. Having a quarterfinal appearance at the Italian Open would only enhance their drive to take out a big scalp at Roland Garros.

It's a big day ahead, with victories that could leave a big impact.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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