>> Friday, May 11, 2012
One of the major clay court tennis tournaments get going live next week at the 2012 Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The event is held two weeks prior to the only Grand Slam on clay - the French Open, and attracts the best and the most talented field of tennis players. This year, all the top 10 players in both the ATP and WTA ours are entered. Coming back to defend their 2011 titles are ATP world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and WTA world no. 2 Maria Sharapova. Both players beat an incredibly talented field last year to secure the men and women's singles championships.
Last year, then no. 2 Djokovic broke Rafael Nadal’s 37-match unbeaten run on clay in the Mutua Madrid Open final. The Serbian then beat the Spaniard again in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final with a 6-4, 6-4 win in Rome. That set-up the stage for Djokovic to eventually grab the top-rankd position from Nadal. This year, Djokovic will be bidding to lift his 12th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. If he wins the on-going Madrid tournament, the number could actually increase to 13. Challenging Djokovic will be the following three players:
World no. 2 Rafael Nadal will certainly try bounce back from his third-round defeat in Madrid to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Nadal has five titles at the Foro Italico with victories in 2005-2007 and 2009-2010.
World no. 3 Roger Federer is competing for 12th time in a tournament he has never won. He lost in the finals in 2003 and 2006. He is 20-11 at the tournament.
World no.4 Andy Murray last year became the first British male to reach the Rome semi-finals since Pat Hughes finished runner-up in 1932. The Scot is 8-2 in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals.
On the WTA side, world no. 2 Maria Sharapova won her biggest clay court title yet when she beat former French Open finalist and now US Open champ Samantha Stosur in a straight set 62 64 victory. Showing her power game is most certainly adaptable to all surfaces, Sharapova captured the Internazionali BNL d'Italia crown and maintained her mastery over Samantha Stosur. The 2011 final got off to a gloomy start, three hours of rain delay pushing it until after 5pm; but once the clouds cleared Sharapova shone through, winning 16 of the first 19 points to storm ahead 4-0 and she never looked back. She ended it with a huge inside out forehand into the open court, her 18th winner of the match.
Sharapova's main challengers to defending her title will come from world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Charleston winner and former world no. 1 Serena Williams. Serena bundled Sharapova out of the Madrid tournament in a convincing straight set win, her seventh straight victory over the Russian.