17 May 2019

La Dolce Vita

If you have never been to the Italian Open, do give it a try! Not only is it a chance to visit the Eternal City, it's a delightful and accessible event. Here are the top 5 reasons to go

A stylish event set in a beautiful location (the Foro Italico it's on the edge of a forest which makes a perfect backdrop)

Above, Cameron Norrie gets through qualifying

Possibly the best on-site catering of all the Tour events

Up and coming star, Jannik Sinner

1. As you would expect from the Italians, this is a stylish event set in a beautiful location (it's on the edge of a forest which makes a perfect backdrop). The retail outlets are small and attractive; the food is great!

2. The venue is full of history. Now called the Foro Italico (formerly the Foro Mussolini or Mussolini's Forum), it's a mix of fascist and classically-inspired architecture which 'Il Duce' hoped would host the 1940 Olympic Games (World War II meant they were cancelled). Don't let the fascist connection put you off. There is a great central arena built like an amphitheatre surrounded with slightly camp Greek-style statues, and what is now the players airy relaxation lounge was once a courtroom for Mafia trials and those accused of murdering the fomer Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro. The 1960 Summer Olympics were held here.

3. They do a brilliant backstage tour. Not only does this mean you run into the pros (Zverev, Gasquet, Evans and Goffin when we were there), you get a feel for the experience from the players' point of view: the slightly manic players registration desk; the subterranean, non-stop racket re-stringing and the long tunnels which eventually emerge into the stadiums via the imposing and slightly sinister Mussolini gates (the iron grilles form a big M when closed).

4. You can get very close to the pros. A much smaller event than Wimbledon, this is the place to get a ringside seat and study your favourite player, from Britain's Cameron Norrie and Johana Khonta to Victoria Azarenka and Karolina Pliskova.

5. It's an ideal place to watch up-and-coming players, and especially exciting if they are locals. We saw the 17-year-old Italian, Jannik Sinner (ranked 263), play the 29-year-old American, Steve Johnson (ranked 59). The teenager came back from 2-5, match point down to win the match buoyed by a hugely delighted, partisan crowd.