ICYMI: Madison Keys stops by the TC Desk in Rome

Ons Jabeur vs. Paula Badosa

From the time these two first met back in 2015 at the US Open—when Badosa was all of 17—they’ve played quality matches. Badosa won that one 6-4 in the third; when they played again six years later in Miami, Jabeur turned the tables 7-5 in the third; and last year, in their most recent meeting, in Stuttgart, Badosa turned them back around, 6-3 in the third set.

At that time, the Tunisian and the Spaniard were both on the rise, but only one of them continued her upward trajectory, and it wasn’t the winner of that match. Jabeur would go on to reach the final of Wimbledon and the US Open, while Badosa would falter through a frustrating season.

Now they face off again, third up in Centrale, in a pretty high-profile second-round contest. They’ll also come in on more even terms than their rankings—Jabeur is No. 7, Badosa No. 35—would indicate. Badosa has won at least two matches in her last three events, which is a promising sign of stability for her. Jabeur, by contrast, has swung from valley to peak and back to valley this season. Injured in the early going, she finally found her top gear in Charleston, where she won the title. Then injury struck again in Stuttgart. The last time she returned to the tour, it took her a couple of events to shake off the rust. Can she do it more quickly this time around? The answer will likely determine the outcome here. Winner: Jabeur



Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry

Rome has come to loom large in Djokovic’s yearly campaigns. It’s the period of time when he goes from having too-little preparation for Roland Garros, to feeling fully confident in his clay game again. Starting back in 2008, he has made the final here 12 times, winning six of those matches and losing six. He won the title a year ago, and has been to the last four finals. In 2023, he’ll arrive here again in need of matches; he’s just 2-2 on clay this spring.

This will also be the first time in 2023 that Djokovic has been entered in a draw with his fellow French Open contender Carlos Alcaraz. First, though, he’ll need to contend with a new opponent, and a specialist on this surface. Etcheverry is a 23-year-old Argentine who has begun to show up in the later rounds of ATP-level events this season. He has made finals in Santiago and Houston, and looks set to rise quite a bit higher than his current No. 63 ranking. Etcheverry has the skills to make this match competitive, but Djokovic has too much at stake to risk an upset. Winner: Djokovic


Djokovic began the 2023 season on a 15-match win streak.

Djokovic began the 2023 season on a 15-match win streak.

Holger Rune vs. Arthur Fils

France’s Musketeer generation has been heading for the exits in recent years: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, and Julien Benneteau, among others, have already made it there; Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils are well on their way. Is anyone coming along to fill their worn-out shoes? The 36-year-old Gasquet is currently the highest-ranked Frenchman, at No. 44.

Fils may be the closest thing the country has to a top-level prospect for the future. He’s 18, he’s ranked No. 119, and he made a spirited run to the semifinals in Montpellier in February. There Fils lost to Jannik Sinner in two fairly competitive sets. Now he’ll get another crack at a young Top 10 player in the 20-year-old Rune. The two have never faced each other, at least in the pros, but this should be a battle between two springy and explosive young athletes. Rune is well ahead of Fils in his development, but we’ll see how he likes having to face a younger opponent for once. It could make him even jumpier than usual. Winner: Rune