Who can break Djokovic-Nadal stranglehold?

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If history is to go by the Rome Masters will be won by either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal.

The pair have dominated at Foro Italico and you have to go back to 2004 to discover the last time when the tournament was last won by someone other than those two greats.

That was when Carlos Moya beat David Nalbandian and that almost feels like a different era.

Nadal of course was often regarded as the king of the clay and his record here in Rome is better than any other player in history. The Spanish left-hander has won the title an incredible seven times and he has been involved in several sensational matches.

He won the 2005 and 2006 tournaments, when the final was best of five sets, in two matches which went the distance. First beating Guillermo Coria of Argentina in a final set tiebreaker 8-6 and then, a year later, repeating the trick with a memorable match against Roger Federer, eventually triumphing 7-5 in the final breaker.

Federer has been luckless in Rome. It is one of the few titles he does not have in his collection and would dearly love to change that. He pulled out of Madrid last week with a minor back problem but seems to be fit enough to compete and change around a record where he has made the final four times but never won.

That last runners-up trophy came last year when he went down 6-4, 6-3 quite comfortably to Novak Djokovic. The Serb world No.1 is bidding to win the tournament for a fourth time and claim a hat-trick having won the Italian Open in 2014 as well as last year.

Djokovic could meet Nadal at the quarter-final stage and the draw appears to have been kind to Andy Murray who is bidding to reach the final at Rome for the very first time after being ranked second seed.

The men’s first round starts on Sunday.

Men’s draw

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