Following in the gladiatorial tradition established here in Rome thousands of years ago, in just twelve short days, two heroes will enter a dirt-floor arena to the cheers and jeers of thousands of spectators, armed with nothing but their wits, whites, and an oddly shaped stick, and battle it out to the, well, not quite to the death, but hopefully to a third set tiebreak. And when the dust settles, the
emperor organizers, bending to the will of the crowd, shall have no choice but to send in the men for the second part of the doubleheader tennis final.
At least this is how I picture the championships of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia going next weekend when they roll into the courts at the Foro Italico (the complex that includes the Stadio Olimpico). The tennis tournament, previously known as the Rome Masters or the Italian Open, is one of the most prestigious clay court tournaments in the world, second only to the French Open at Roland Garros. Match play commences with the qualifying round on Saturday, May 12th, and the main draw kicks into action on Sunday. The draw has not been posted yet, but the top players from both tours will be in town, including, on the men’s side, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, and my BFF Mardy Fish (running into him courtside six months ago and having to restrain yourself from gushing about the time he very sweetly took a photo with a 14 year old you just after being soundly defeated by James Blake counts as being BFF’s, right?). From the women’s tour, you can expect to see Victoria Azarenka, Maria Shrapova, Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki, and, of course, America’s sweetheart Serena Williams.
Ticket prices for Center Court start at 16 euro for the cheap seats at the night sessions, and run up to 80 euro for the good ones at the finals. More information on prices and purchasing is available here. You can buy them online, which I highly recommend for the later rounds. If you don’t plan ahead, I was able to easily get into an early week night session last year by purchasing at the stadium, and intend to do so again this year!