Rome Masters 2013 Schedule: Preview and Predictions for Championship Match

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Rome Masters 2013 Schedule: Preview and Predictions for Championship Match
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The 2013 Rome Masters has seen its fair share of surprises, but that didn't stop two of the world's best players from facing off in the final round, as Rafael Nadal will face Roger Federer

We've seen world No. 1 player Novak Djokovic bounced by Tomas Berdych and No. 2 Andy Murray withdraw due to injury, but Federer and Nadal couldn't be stopped on their way to winning at Rome just a week before the French Open begins.

The two will renew a fierce rivalry that captivated the sport of tennis throughout much of the 2000s, but this one has a different feel, as both players have their eyes set toward next weekend.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know as well as predictions for this championship match.

 

When: Sunday, May 19

Start Time: 7:30 a.m. ET 

Where: Foro Italico, Rome, Italy

Watch: Tennis Channel

Online: Tennis TV

 

How Nadal Got Here

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

After a strong performance at the Madrid Open, things started to look like they were turning around for Nadal. He's only added to that notion with his play in Rome.

The Spaniard took down Italian Fabio Fognini in straight sets to start the tournament, looking to be firing on all cylinders. But then he nearly fell in the third round, with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory that looks as odd on paper as it did in person. 

However, Nadal shook off his poor performance in the quarterfinals by ousting fellow countryman David Ferrer, who has emerged as a potential star player. That match went three sets, setting up Nadal with Tomas Berdych after he upset Djokovic

Nadal beat Berdych easily with a 6-2, 6-4 win. 

The "King of the Clay Courts" has further proved his nickname after dominating the clay on the way to the final round. Nadal is looking for his 24th Masters victory. 

 

How Federer Got Here

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Hungry for his first French Open win since 2009, Federer entered the Rome Masters with dominance on his mind. He hoped to fine-tune his clay-court game and didn't look back.

He showed that hunger in his first two matches, toppling his opponents while only giving up six combined games. That type of dominance doesn't happen every day.

Despite each of his next two matches going to a tiebreaker at some point, Federer never gave up a set and notched straight-set victories in each performance in this tournament. Although the competition has gotten stiffer, the Swiss star hasn't blinked.

But there was no doubting Federer's ability to get this far; in fact, it was expected. What is unclear is how well he'll play against Nadal, who is one of the best clay-court players of all time. 

 

Federer X-Factor: Grind it Out

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With the three-set scenario, some of these elite players have to adjust their game to what they're able to do given the shorter match. That's what Federer will have to do.

He shouldn't be afraid of grinding out the first set, because he's had success in his two recent matches by going to a tiebreaker. He seems to be saving his best for the end of the set.

Over the course of a set, Nadal will wear you out on clay courts with his precision and ability to control himself better than anyone on the court. That's why Federer must keep his focus on remaining tight in the sets and not overexerting his energy early on.

Federer must be able to channel his energy and have more control over where his energy goes, if he wants a chance at toppling the Spaniard.

 

Nadal X-Factor: Don't Go Down Early

Clive Mason/Getty Images

All in all, Nadal should be in control of this match with a huge upper hand on clay. But if there's any blueprint for Federer to pull an upset, it'll be in the first set.

Nadal was able to fool around in the first set earlier this tournament, even losing one 1-6 before digging himself out of that hole. But that won't be possible against Federer, who knows better than anyone how to put down a player when he's running out of opportunities.

Nadal is going to have the advantage going in, but he cannot let that get to his head or it could be gone before he notices. It's not like he's playing in the third round anymore.

I admire what Nadal has been able to do in beginning to turn his career around, but he cannot afford to overlook players if he wants to be at his best heading into the French Open.

 

Prediction

What's your pick?

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As dangerous as Federer is on any type of court, I can't get over the improvements Nadal has shown recently and the unmatched skill he has on clay. 

Nadal will have his head in the right place on Sunday, going for the kill early as he takes down Federer.

Nadal wins 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

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