ROME, ITALY – All four Brits in the main draw are in action on a packed Monday schedule with British No. 1s Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta leading the charge.
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Kyle Edmund v Fernando Verdasco | Verdasco leads H2H 1-0
First up on today’s schedule, Kyle Edmund tries to shake off a sluggish start to the clay court season with a win over tricky leftie Fernando Verdasco. Given that clay is a surface that has suited Edmund, his 2019 season has been one of intense disappointment, with just one win in Marrakech and since then first round exits.
Coming into Madrid, Verdasco had not fared much better, picking up one win in Barcelona, and then a couple more in Madrid. With the advantage of a hard fought three-set win over Edmund in Vienna last year, Verdasco throws up unpredictability as his main weapon.
Often known for grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, Verdasco will utilise his forehand, much as Edmund will look to do, and has a mean slice and topspin, which, if Edmund is on form, could make for a powerful game of big hitting.
Edmund will need to capitalise on his serve for free points and his serve-forehand combo, when it is firing well, is formidable. However, with his confidence a little lower than usual, this will be a battle for the Brit.
Prediction: Verdasco in three sets.
Johanna Konta v Alison Riske | Konta leads H2H 2-0 (Incl. ITF)
For the second time in as many tournament, Johanna Konta will face Alison Riske, and after a break-through clay court start on the tour in Rabat, where Konta reached her first tour-level clay court final, she despatched Riske with relative ease in Madrid, and enjoyed a good start against Simona Halep before losing to the reigning Roland Garros champion.
We ought to expect to see more of the same from Konta, who concentrated a lot more on solidifying her base game of aggressive hitting before adding a little more variety from time to time as she gets more used to this surface.
The draw will pit her against Roland Garros runner-up Sloane Stephens who made decent ground in Madrid, so it is another tough prospect for the Brit, but a win here in sea-level conditions that start to resemble Roland Garros a little more will be a good start.
Prediction: Konta in straight sets.
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Cameron Norrie [Q] v John Millman | Millman leads H2H 1-0 (Challenger level)
It might have only been a couple of years since John Millman and Cameron Norrie faced each other in the Lexington Challenger, where the Aussie gained a comprehensive win over Norrie for the loss of just two games.
However, a lot has happened to both of them since then, with some landmark wins for Millman, and some patient ranking climbs for the pair with Norrie just inside the Top 50 and Millman a little way outside it.
Norrie did well to get to grips with the clay last year, as his performance in the Davis Cup tie against Spain showed but this year, much like Edmund, he is struggling, having been hampered a little with a leg injury.
The fact that he fought through two tough three-setters in qualifying does give some ground for optimism. Millman has picked up just three wins but no back to back wins yet on the main draw.
Popular journey-man Millman has battled back throughout his career against serious injuries, and his steady-eddy style of play has seen him bobble around as far as No. 33 in the world, and probably as a slight edge coming into this encounter.
Norrie can give him a good fight though, if he is back to full fitness.
Prediction: Millman in three sets.
Dan Evans [Q] v Casper Ruud [Q] | First Meeting
Dan Evans make it into the main draw at a clay-court event for the first time this season. It is not his favourite surface by any means, and he will face another qualifier Casper Ruud who in contract reached the final in Houston at the start of the season.
The Norwegian has developed a reputation as a hard worker, and perhaps enjoys being the under-dog more than the favourite, which he will be here.
For Evans, he scored two very solid straight sets wins against decent players, especially Dusan Lajovic, which ought to give him a lot of confidence going into this round, but the edge is with the Norwegian.
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