Fresh off his record-tying 33rd Masters 1000 title, Djokovic is rounding into form just in time for the French Open. The Serb enters Rome as the oddsmakers' second favorite, just a shade behind 11-time champion Rafael Nadal.
For Shapovalov to have any chance, he will need to play much more consistent tennis than he has displayed so far this year. After losing his first three matches of the European clay season, Shapovalov earned his first win on the surface Monday over Pablo Carreno Busta. The left-hander is one of the few players that can hit anyone off the court on any given day, and at 20, his potential ceiling is as high as any player.
Djokovic can win this match playing whatever brand of tennis he chooses, but allowing Shapovalov to dictate play is not the right strategy. He will look to change direction with his backhand down the line, one of the most effective shots in the game, forcing Shapovalov to hit from his weaker wing while also on the run. Djokovic has a monumental advantage on the return, so free points will be few and far between for the young Canadian. Djokovic could surpass Nadal for the most Masters titles of all time this week, so look for him to take care of Shapovalov quickly and efficiently.
A rising teenager meets a soaring contender. After receiving a lucky loser entry into the main draw, Anisimova looks to capitalize against Bertens, arguably the best clay-court player in the world right now. In her first full clay-court swing, the 17-year-old American produced consistent results to pick up her first WTA clay title in Bogota.
This is a great opportunity for Anisimova; she is not expected to win by any means. Both UTR metrics and Vegas oddsmakers are riding high on Bertens after she blitzed through three consecutive Top 10 players en route to her title in Madrid (without dropping a set).
Anisimova has the uncanny ability to hit sharp angles with pace. Perhaps this could stretch Bertens off the court enough to make her uncomfortable. Mix in a little Bertens fatigue from last week and this could be a tightly contested match. If we know anything about Anisimova, we know she is not afraid of these moments, as she relishes the big stage. There is always upset potential when Anisimova is involved; she is as talented as they come. But Bertens has been unstoppable on serve the entire season, leading the WTA in aces. Look for Bertens to maximize her advantage on serve and take care of Anisimova in straight sets.