WATCH: Djokovic edged through a tricky opening set to make a winning return from injury.

Novak Djokovic vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Whether you’re looking at long-term history or recent history, everything points to a Djokovic win here. He’s 10-1 against Dimitrov, and hasn’t lost to him since 2013. In their one meeting this year, at the Australian Open, Djokovic won in straight sets. The Serb, who hasn’t had much clay preparation to speak of so far, is motivated to do well and go far in Rome.

And right now the 31-year-old, 33rd-ranked Dimitrov is in a holding pattern, performance wise: In his last four events, he’s won one match and lost the next. So far in Rome, he has won match, over Stan Wawrinka. This one is the next. Winner: Djokovic


Holger Rune vs. Fabio Fognini

“Spicy” is a word we hear a lot when Rune plays. The adolescent brashness of the Danish teen has a way of getting under the skin of opponents and fans, and inspiring them to let their distaste for his antics be known. What are the chances there isn’t some spice when he faces Fognini, a semi-reformed hothead who doesn’t have much tolerance for youthful brashness in general, in front of a home Italian audience that will likely pack the Grandstand?

As entertainment, this is one to keep an eye on. What about as a tennis match? Rune will be a heavy favorite. He’s 1-0 against Fognini, having beaten him in straight sets last summer in Canada. He’s ranked seventh, while Fognini is No. 130. And the home support may not mean that much; Fognini doesn’t have a great record in Rome. But he does have one decent win this week, over Andy Murray, and if things get spicy, he’ll surely won’t shy away from stirring the pot. Winner: Rune


Victoria Azarenka vs. Madison Keys

Until this February, Azarenka owned Keys. She had beaten her four straight times, including once in late 2022 in Guadalajara, 6-1 in the third set, and again at the Australian Open in 2023, also 6-1 in the third set. But a few weeks later, Maddy finally broke Vika’s spell in Dubai, in convincing 6-2, 6-1 fashion.

Azarenka and Keys have each reached a final in Rome, and they each lost to Serena Williams when they got there. Right now, Azarenka is ranked six spots higher—17 to 23—and has had the better 2023. Vika is also a little steadier from one set to the next than Keys, and she may still be riding her resentment over the Madrid doubles debacle from last weekend, and the support she received for speaking up about it. Winner: Azarenka