Djokovic going for fourth Italian title
Novak Djokovic has enjoyed a sensational 2015 so far but Rafael Nadal looks to be getting back to his best ahead of the French Open.
Novak Djokovic already has three Rome Masters titles and will be aiming for a fourth ahead of the French Open.
The world number one withdrew from the most recent tournament, the Madrid Open, to ensure he is in peak condition for the conclusion of the clay court season, beginning with the Rome Masters where he is defending champion.
He beat Rafael Nadal, coming from a set down to win the title last year and also beat Nadal in 2011 and Stan Wawrinka in 2008.
He has begun 2015 in the same form as he ended last year, cementing his position as the best player in the world at the present time. He won the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year and has also won the last three ATP tournaments that he has competed in; the Masters events in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo.
The Rome Masters has been won by either Djokovic or Nadal throughout the last decade with the Spaniard winning seven times, twice beating Djokovic.
On clay Nadal remains the man to beat and is aiming for a 10th French Open title next month. However, he hasn't had a great 2015 so far, winning just one tournament, the Argentina Open.
Nadal has won at least one Masters 1000 and one ATP 500 series event in each of the last 10 years and will hope to continue that record throughout the rest of the year. He is however in the final of the Madrid Open, facing Andy Murray and will hope to take that form on to Rome.
No other past winners of the tournament will be taking part in Rome, though losing finalists Wawrinka, David Ferrer and Roger Federer are all due to take part as the build up to the French Open begins.
No woman taking part has enjoyed a run of success at the Rome Masters to compare with that of Nadal but Serena Williams has won the women's singles in the last two years and, like Djokovic, will be aiming for her fourth overall Italian title.
Williams won the event for the first time in 2002, beating Justine Henin and then, over a decade later, won it for a second time in 2013 beating Victoria Azarenaka. She was again victorious last year, conceding just three games in comfortably beating Sara Errani in the final.
World number one in the WTA rankings, Williams won the Australian Open earlier this year and has one other tournament win in 2014 so far, the Miami Open in April. In her last tournament, the Madrid Open, she was a semi-finalist, losing out to eventual champion Petra Kvitova.
Maria Sharapova has also twice won the Rome Masters, in 2011 and 2013 winning finals against Samantha Stosur and Li Na respectively. The Russian is always a threat on clay, winning the French Open last year.
This year, despite winning the Brisbane International and running Williams close in the Australian Open final, her form since has been patchy.
She suffered a fourth-round exit at Indian Wells and then had successive second-round exits, at the Miami Open and then in Stuttgart, her first clay-court event of the year. She did though reach the semi-finals in Madrid, before losing in straight sets to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard both made their first Grand Slam finals last year and will be expected to challenge both in Rome and then in Paris. However both suffered first-round exits in the recent Madrid Open and will be keen to make amends and reach the latter stages in Rome.