Rome Masters draw hands Andy Murray huge opening challenge

Andy Murray

Andy Murray might have gained some momentum from dropping down to the Challenger Tour last week but he has been given a stiff opening assignment in Rome.

Murray will have to face one of the home contingent at the Italian Open after being drawn against Fabio Fognini.

Fognini and Murray are 4-4 in their ATP Tour head to head, but the Italian has won both their last meeting, back in Shanghai in 2019, and their last meeting on clay at the 2017 Rome Masters.

Only one of Murray’s wins over Fognini came on clay with the Brit coming out on top in Monte Carlo in 2009.

Novak Djokovic is the top seed and defending champion, but even his draw has a potential challenge.

Djokovic will face either the man who took him to three sets in Banja Luka, Luca Van Assche, or clay court master Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

The reigning world No 1 is seeded to face Grigor Dimitrov in the Round of 32 with the Bulgarian needing to get beyond either Stan Wawrinka or a qualifier to reach that stage.

All 32 seeds enjoy a bye into the second round, but there are still some compelling early match-ups.

The qualifying tournament is ongoing with the Rome Masters stretching over two weeks when all qualifying is taken into account.

Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alexei Popyrin are among the bigger names in the qualifying event.

Second seed Carlos Alcaraz is out to become just the fourth man in history to win the Madrid and Rome titles in the same season.

Alcaraz is set to take on either Francesco Passaro or a qualifier in his opening match in Rome.

Fortunately for Alcaraz, the scope of the tournament means he will have a couple of days to recover from his Madrid run.

Alcaraz is seeded to face Jiri Lehecka in the Round of 32 in what could be a big early test for the in-form Spaniard.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev will face either Emil Ruusuvuori or Ugo Humbert in his opening match.

Fourth seed Casper Rune is in the top half of the draw and will face either Arthur Rinderknech or a qualifier.

Meanwhile, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas could be set for another blockbuster clash with fierce rival Medvedev in the last eight in Rome if both men make it that far.

Top Brits, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans enjoy first round byes, but Kyle Edmund will take on a qualifier with the winner going on to face 13th seed Norrie.

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