Russian and Belarusian tennis players at risk for next week’s Rome Masters

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In an unprecedented turn of events, organizers have confirmed that the Italian government is set to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the upcoming Rome Masters. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Rome Masters (also known as Internazionali BNL d’Italia), is one of the flagship tournaments on the men’s ATP calendar. Scheduled to be played from May 2-15, this year’s tournament draw features 9 of the top 10 male professional tennis players in the world. Held at the Stadio del tennis di Roma, the draw also has the same number of players as a typical Grand Slam tournament, with rounds starting from the round of 16. 10-time Roma champion Rafael Nadal has been confirmed for the draw, alongside current men’s world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Djokovic was recently given the green light by tournament organizers to take part in the event, opting to host the three-time champion in Rome.

Nadal, who is also the event’s latest starting champion, will also compete this week in his home master, the Madrid Open. The Spanish tennis sensation has been hampered by injuries for the past month and has not competed since losing the Indian Wells hard court final to Taylor Fritz in March.

The Italian Open (Rome Masters) is generally considered the very last tune-up or warm-up tournament before Roland Garros (French Open). Performances in the tournament are often very telling of the results of the clay major, which this year will be played without 20-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Roger Federer.

Federer, who has been blighted by injury for the past two seasons, decided to wait until the US Open in September to restart his season.

It’s also particularly concerning, given that Federer hasn’t played a full schedule since 2019. This is also Federer’s second big comeback in as many years.

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