The Italian Open is one of the three ATP Masters 1000 tennis tournaments that is played on clay. It takes place annually at the Foro Italico in Rome, where the cream of the world’s players will be converging on 12th May for this year’s event.
As one of the world’s most prestigious clay tennis tournaments, along with the French Open, it is also known as the Italian Championships, or the Rome Masters. Rafael Nadal of Spain, now aged 32, has won the Italian Open a record eight times and will be going for his ninth victory this year.
The championship offers prize money of €958,055 to the singles winner and €484,950 to the runner-up. Each semi-finalist receives €248,745 and each quarter-finalist receives €128,200. The total prize money is €8.1 million for the men’s and women’s championships combined.
Launched by Count Alberto Bonacossa, who was a prominent figure in Italian sports at the time, the championship dates back to 1930, when it was first held at the Milan Tennis Club.
The Count was an early supporter of tennis in Italy and published a popular book, Il Tennis, in 1914. He played tennis himself in the Olympics and was part of the Italian Davis Cup team.
The tournament was held in Milan until 1934, moving to the Foro Italico in Rome in 1935 – the event wasn’t held during World War II and didn’t resume until 1950. It opened to professional tennis players in 1969 and became an ATP Championship tournament in 1990.
In the past, the women’s event was held in Perugia, followed by Tatanto, two weeks before the men’s event, but it moved to Rome in 1987 and has remained there ever since.
Who’s playing this year?
The tournament has attracted the greatest names in sport over the years, with winners including tennis legends such as Rod Laver, Guillermo Vilas, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Mats Wilander, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
All eyes will be on Nadal this year, after he beat the 2017 men’s singles champion, 22-year-old German Alexander Zverev, in straight sets in the 2018 final. He will be defending his title as he competes for his record ninth victory – he is one of the favourites to win. This year’s top seeded man is Novak Djokovic.
The other 2019 top entrants in the men’s singles include Zverev, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In April, Italian player Fabio Fognini won the Monte-Carlo Masters 1000 Title, beating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 in the final. This caused a major upset and meant Fognini rose to a career-high number 12 in the latest ATP Rankings.
With Nadal and Djokovic suffering a bit of a dip in form at the moment, Fognini’s surprise Monte Carlo win piles the pressure on the top seeds. He beat Nadal in the semi-final on his way to winning the Monte-Carlo Masters. Fognini’s victory in Monte Carlo has provided him with a platform to win the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome, not to mention the Roland Garros.
Last year’s women’s singles champion was Elina Svitolina, the 24-year-old Ukrainian who beat Romanian Simona Halep, 27, in straight sets in 2018. Svitolina, the world number seven, will be back to defend her title, but will be up against tough competition.
The other top-seeded women’s players include four-time Italian Open champion Serena Williams of the United States, who has won a career total of 23 Grand Slams, and the current world number one, Naomi Osaka, aged 21, of Japan, who has never won the Italian Open before.
Osaka is the top women’s seed for this year’s tournament. She won the Australian Open 2019 to become the world number one and was the first female player to win consecutive Grand Slam singles championships since Serena Williams in 2015.
Details of the 2019 event
Organisers of the Italian Open 2019 have described it as “more than just tennis” and have labelled it as a “total entertainment experience”. Spectators can enjoy fine food, shopping and celebrity musical performances during the tournament. It has become one of the most glamorous events on the ATP Tour.
The tennis begins on Sunday 12th May with the first rounds of the men’s and women’s singles events beginning at noon. The men’s and women’s quarterfinals take place on Friday 17th May, with all of the finals (including the doubles) taking place on an action-packed Sunday 19th May.
The Italian Open is the last major warm up tournament before the Roland Garros French Open 2019 championship begins on 26th May.
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