How Rome’s rescheduling significantly impacts clay court draws

Rome’s Italian Open has put out a series of new regulations, which will vastly impact the draws both there and at Roland Garros. Here’s how.

The Italian Open in Rome has undergone a few major changes today. The Masters 1000 Series (a Premier 5 equivalent for the WTA) has announced that:

  1. Main draw action will begin September 14th (instead of the 20th)
  2. The men’s field will be expanded from 64 players to a larger number
  3. US Open semifinalists will get an automatic bye in the tournament

This news came shortly after the announcement that all players coming from the US Open will not need to quarantine in Rome, therefore guaranteeing they’ll have enough preparation time for the shift from hard courts to clay. The last four in the US Open will get a bye, meaning they won’t play until September 16th at the earliest.

Rafael Nadal of Spain poses for photographers after winning against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their ATP Masters tournament final tennis match at the Foro Italico in Rome on May 19, 2019. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

This is a great addition to the tournament given that a top-tier draw is one of their main goals for this year. US Open semifinalists will compete on August 11th and the finalists on the 13th; in the event that the top four leave New York on the 12th and the 14th, respectively, it gives them anywhere from two-four days at minimum to adequately adjust to jet lag and the surface change.

The National Council of Ministers will allow for any player and their team to enter Rome without needed quarantine (even those traveling from previously prohibited countries) as long as everyone has had negative COVID-19 test results in the last 48 hours. The ATP, WTA, and US Open all use the nasopharyngeal swab (nose swab) testing method for players; it will be the only method allowed for players planning to enter Rome.

The only caveat is that, given the short amount of time in between the US Open and the start of the Italian Open, players will likely have to organize testing for themselves.

“We are prepared,” said Rome tournament director, Sergio Palmieri.  “Players who play in the United States will undergo a coronavirus test 48 hours before arriving, then in Italy, they will immediately have another one and will go immediately to their hotel until they obtain the result. If it is negative they will be able to play.”

The new regulations in place will certainly allow for a loaded draw. It’s likely that, apart from the few injuries, the field will be just as loaded as any pre-virus event. The overwhelming majority of those skipping the US Open opted for the clay swing instead, and now that the quarantine laws in Rome have been relaxed, almost all of the rest of the game’s best will swiftly travel over from the US in order to make their marks on the clay-court events in Rome and Paris.

Next: Andreescu's shocking withdrawal adds to shrinking US Open list

The Masters 1000 Series in Rome now begins September 14th as the first clay event after the shutdown. Next week’s Western & Southern Open (beginning August 20th) will be the ATP’s first official tournament held since March.

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