Maria Sharapova hits with Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro reveals why he can struggle on clay - Rome Diary

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As far as tennis venues go, there is nowhere like the Foro Italico – a structure that is stunning to look at, yet equally conflicting, considering it has a monument erected at its centre inscribed ‘Mussolini Dux’ in celebration of Fascist Italy.

Rome’s sports complex that was built in the 1930s has an ugly history but now plays host to several events including the ATP/WTA Italian Open.

You’re taken aback when you arrive at the Foro. There are incredible marble statues surrounding the courts, which are ampitheatres offering brilliant views of the tennis and bringing fans ever so close to the players.

Rome’s famous stone pine trees are scattered all over the venue and the colour contrast between the orange clay and the white and green surroundings is a sight for sore eyes.

Fans fill up the stands from the start of qualifying until the very end of the tournament, and the whole place was shaking as they cheered home veteran Roberta Vinci in the last singles match of her career on Monday.

With it being a combined event, getting access to a practice court is a tough ask sometimes and players during the early stages of the tournament often have to share.

That results in fun combinations on court, with Maria Sharapova hitting with Rafael Nadal yesterday, and Jelena Ostapenko practicing on the same half of the court as Denis Shapovalov.

Despite the chaos and the craziness of the Italian Open, players and journalists love coming to Rome.

Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 2 seed here, may not be a huge fan of clay, but she is very clear on how her off-court agenda looks like when she’s in the Eternal City.

Asked what some of her must-dos are in Rome each year, Wozniacki quickly replied: “The food. We’re getting a list of the restaurants to try out here, so definitely going to try out Italian cuisine, there’s nothing better than a good pasta in my opinion.”

Can’t argue with that!

The Coliseum and the Vatican are also on her list.

Meanwhile, Juan Martin del Potro was frank when talking about why he can find clay so challenging, despite hailing from a clay-loving nation like Argentina.

“I don’t like to run too much,” confessed Del Potro.

Yet another thing I have in common with the big man!

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