“Upgrade” is the best word to sum it up: the 2023 edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is one of those Masters 1000 tournaments for which the ATP has planned an additional leap in quality (Upgrade). Now this event is on the same level as the two American Masters 1000s events—the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments—traditionally held in California and Florida respectively.
Although the ATP and WTA points system are the same (1000 to the winner, 600 to the finalist, 360 to the semifinalists, and so on), everything else is different. The event is much bigger and more spectacular since the tournament draws have increased from 56 to 96 players with 12 full days of play rather than 7 (plus another two days of qualifying rounds). The women’s tournament begins on Tuesday, May 9 (qualifying rounds from Monday, May 8) and will end on Saturday, May 20. The men start on Wednesday, May 10 (qualifying rounds from Monday, May 8) and the finals are scheduled for Sunday, May 21.
The novelty is the central weekend of the tournament—Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May—which becomes a kind of festival of great tennis with an unprecedented binge of champions. Day and evening programmes with highly technical and spectacular matches for the Centre Court and Grand Stand Arena as well as the Pietrangeli court which can be accessed with the Grounds ticket.
This year’s event nearly doubles the number of participants
Nearly twice as many participants obviously offers a huge opportunity for extra performance and with only two grandstand courts—the Central Court and the Grand Stand Arena—with numbered seating at the Foro Italico, it is easy to imagine the quantity and quality of matches accessible in the first week of competition. This is also true with the ordinary “Grounds ticket” which gives access to the Pietrangeli Stadium, and all other courts excluding the two numbered courts.
All top players will have to play one more game
Until last year the tournament draw included a 64-place grid with 16 seeded players. The top eight players were exempt from the first round: this is why there were 56 participants (including 7 Qualifiers, 4 Wild Cards).
Top players, or the best eight, could reach the quarterfinals by playing and winning only 2 games
With the Upgrade, the new draw has 128 slots (the same as Grand Slam tournaments) with the 32 seeds exempt from the first round. Thus, there are 96 players competing (including 12 from the qualifiers and 6 Wild Cards).
This means that to reach the quarterfinals, even the top seeds who start one round ahead must play and win 3 matches instead of two.
The 32 top seeds through to the second round
After the first day of play (Monday, May 8) reserved for the qualifiers (until 2022 the qualifiers were held over the first Saturday and Sunday of the main draw) the tournament gets right into the swing of things on Tuesday, May 9. This is when the “qualifying” rounds and some first-round matches of the WTA main draw—which progresses one day ahead of the ATP main draw—are held. The men’s first-round matches are held on Wednesday 10 and Thursday, 11 May and feature all non-seeded players. Seeded players come on court between Friday 12 and Saturday, 13 May and for winning players, from Sunday, 14 May their presence on court is daily up to the quarterfinals which follow a new and specific schedule.
Central Sunday is an unimaginably wild Sunday
From the point of view of those already looking forward to the finest tennis, the central days featuring the greatest number of stars on court (and not only in the two main stadiums) will no longer be the Wednesday and Thursday of the final week (this year dedicated to the quarters starting on Tuesday 16 and ending on Friday 19) but precisely the middle weekend (Saturday 13 and Sunday, 14 May which will include day and evening sessions) or even better, the long 4-day weekend from Friday, May 11 to Monday, May 15).
In order to advance in the tournament, the top players will have to play on court at least twice during this long weekend. This means an incredible wealth of high-level matches on all courts, even those with “Grounds” access only.
Super-Saturday: men’s semifinals and women’s finals
Let’s take a look at the scheduling of the final stages: what stands out most is that the women’s final has been moved forward to Saturday evening (the evening programme includes the WTA singles and doubles award ceremony), creating the basis for a truly Super Saturday at the Foro Italico on May 20: the men’s semifinals are scheduled for the afternoon (day session) and women’s finals in the evening. The final day—Sunday, 21 May—will be all about the ATP singles and doubles finals.
This upgrade has brought a new dimension to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia with the quarterfinals of both draws spread over the central days of the second week, starting Tuesday, May 16 (first two women’s quarters) through to Thursday, May 18. Friday, May 19 will be the day of the women’s semifinals (one in the day session, the other in the evening session) and the doubles semifinals. Then the Super-Saturday on May, 20 and the men’s finals on Sunday, May 21.