Andy Murray in tough Rome Masters opener as Novak Djokovic learns fate amid ranking woe | Tennis | Sport

Andy Murray faces a tough opener at the Rome Masters against Fabio Fognini after winning the Challenger tournament in Aix-en-Provence on Sunday. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has learned his path in Rome, in what is set to be a fascinating ATP Tour event.

Murray is riding high following his victory in the Challenger tournament, having beaten American Tommy Paul in the final in the deciding set. The Brit came through to win 2-6 6-1 6-2 with the French Open on the horizon.

And his clay season will ramp up at the Rome Masters, but he faces a difficult task against Italian Fognini in the opening round of the ATP 1000 tournament.

Djokovic is back as top seed, and as is the norm, he gets a bye in the first round and will get his campaign in Rome underway against Luca van Assche or Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the second round.

Djokovic will be looking over his shoulders in the Italian capital however, with his status as world No 1 set to come to an end once the fortnight plays out. With Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz playing in Rome, it has guaranteed tennis’ next big thing will overtake his Serbian counterpart.

That means Alcaraz will be top seed at the French Open in a huge blow to two-time Roland Garros champion Djokovic. Alcaraz will get his Rome Masters journey started against either Francesco Passaro or Albert Ramos Vinolas.

There are plenty of big names playing in Rome, and Murray will know that it’ll be a massive ask to reach the final rounds. But he will be buoyed by his victory in the Aix-en-Provence Challenger. It marked his first silverware since 2019 and his first on the clay surface since 2015.

And after his triumph, the former world No 1 expressed his relief after a tough couple of years. “This last year, 18 months has been a bit of struggle with my game.” Murray said on court.

“But [my team] have been there supporting me and working with me to try and get better. We keep going from here.” And he will be determined to put up a strong showing to get the confidence flowing ahead of the French Open.

The Roland Garros Grand Slam gets underway on May 22 and finishes on June 11.

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