Djokovic Struggles in Rome

Novak Djokovic may be the No. 1-ranked player on the ATP Tour, but he's vulnerable on clay – like the courts at Foro Italico, for example. Djokovic went into this week's Italian Open as the 4/5 favorite; however, he needed three sets to beat Nicolas Almagro (+1400) in Tuesday's second-round match. Djokovic is coming off a three-week break following his title win at Monte Carlo and, while the rest should benefit him in the long run, he had some trouble finding his form against Almagro. This is welcome news for Rafael Nadal, the seven-time Italian Open champion and this year's second-favorite at 9/4. Djokovic is the only other person to win at Rome since 2004, beating Nadal in three sets during last year's final to claim his third Italian Open. Assuming Nadal can survive his half of the draw, he might not even have to worry about Djokovic. The World's No. 1 is pointed at a quarterfinal matchup with Kei Nishikori, the third-favorite at 9/1 and one of the rising stars on the men's circuit. Djokovic has a 3-2 career record against the No. 6-ranked Nishikori. Roger Federer and Andy Murray (both 10/1) also loom as potential roadblocks to the title.