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Italian Open draw: Who will Rafael Nadal, Jack Draper meet in first round?

Sports Mole looks at the key talking points from the Italian Open draw, including Rafael Nadal, Jack Draper and Dan Evans's first-round fates.

Preparations for the 2024 French Open heat up over the next couple of weeks, as the world's finest take to the clay once again for this year's Italian Open.

The two-week competition follows another Masters tournament in the shape of the Madrid Open, where Andrey Rublev and Iga Swiatek swept aside the competition to come up trumps over the weekend.

In Rome, however, Daniil Medvedev and Elena Rybakina will be gunning for back-to-back titles, and the draw for the men's and women's singles was held on Monday, albeit without a few notable names.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at the key talking points from this year's Italian Open draw, including the fates of Rafael Nadal, Jack Draper and Dan Evans.

Nadal to meet qualifier in first round

Rafael Nadal reacts at the Madrid Open on April 30, 2024© Reuters

The recent Madrid Open threw up several nasty injury surprises, as Carlos Alcaraz - who was already struggling with a forearm problem - and Jannik Sinner both had to pull out of the Rome Masters, while defending champion Medvedev retired from his quarter-final with Jiri Lehecka but is still on course to defend his Italian clay crown.

Before Alcaraz's loss to eventual winner Rublev, the Spanish crowd also witnessed another beloved star in Rafael Nadal progress to the last 16 before his straight-sets loss to Lehecka, and after bidding a fond farewell to Madrid, the 37-year-old will seemingly take to the Rome courts for the final time here as well.

Already boasting 10 Italian Open titles - unsurprisingly an all-time high - Nadal has been handed a favourable first-round tie against one of the victors from the qualifying tournament, which could precede a second-round tie with seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Should Nadal harness his clay specialities and progress as far as the fourth round, a date with last year's runner-up Holger Rune may await, while his long-time nemesis Novak Djokovic could also face a qualifier or - more realistically - Roman Safiullin in round two.

Britons handed tough opening tests

Jack Draper reacts at the Australian Open on January 18, 2024© Reuters

As Andy Murray continues to battle back from an ankle injury, Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Jack Draper represent the three British hopes in the men's singles, and the former earns a bye to the second stage as the 27th seed; he will meet either Rinky Hijikata or Jaume Munar before a potential third-round scrap with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Draper and Evans's campaigns will begin at the first hurdle, though, and both have been dealt difficult opening draws, as the former will pit his wits against Croatian number one Borna Coric.

The 27-year-old actually sits below Draper in the ATP Rankings at world number 55, but he won a Masters title just two years ago - beating Tsitsipas in the Cincinnati Open final - becoming the lowest-ranked player to win an ATP 1000 crown in doing so.

Things will not get any easier for Draper if he outwits Coric in their maiden meeting either, as reigning champion Medvedev is lying in wait for the winner of that first-round battle.

Meanwhile, Evans - who heads to Rome on a four-match losing sequence - faces 36-year-old Italian wild card Fabio Fognini, a former French Open quarter-finalist with an affinity for clay.

Eight of Fognini's nine ATP Tour titles have been won on that surface, although he has not reached a top-level final since winning the 2019 Monte-Carlo Masters, and Evans triumphed in their first-ever meeting in Dubai four years ago.

Katie Boulter on Ons Jabeur collision course

Katie Boulter in action at the Miami Open on March 21, 2024© Reuters

The headline news on the women's side as far as GB are concerned is the absence of Emma Raducanu, who will skip the Rome Masters after her Madrid thrashing at the hands of Maria Lourdes Carle, where she admitted to suffering from extreme fatigue.

Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and Lily Miyazaki were also dumped out in qualifying, so only Katie Boulter will be flying the flag high for GB in the women's singles.

As the 26th seed, Boulter also receives a bye into the second round as she seeks an immediate return to winning ways, having been dumped out of the Madrid Open by American teenager Robin Montgomery on her first outing.

The British number one will be taking on a qualifier or 19-year-old Italian wild card Giorgia Pedone first up, and victory in her opening battle could earn her a third-round showdown with three-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur.

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Rafael Nadal pictured at the Australian Open on January 18, 2023
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