Rome Masters 2013: Players Gaining Key Momentum at Italian Open

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 16, 2013

ROME, ITALY - MAY 14:  Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina celebrates at the end of his second round match against Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia during day three of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2013 at the Foro Italico Tennis Centre on May 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The 2013 Rome Masters offers tennis stars one last shot to tune up their game and gain pivotal momentum before the clay-court season finale, better known as the French Open.

2009 French Open champion Roger Federer is one player tennis fans will continue to watch closely in Rome this week. Despite having yet to win a single title in 2013 and recently making his return from a two-month layoff, Fed is still alive and in position to conquer Rome for the first time in his career. 

But the Swiss legend isn't the only player picking up some vital confidence in the Italian capital.

Below we'll take a closer look at a trio of French Open contenders who gaining key momentum this week in Rome.


Roger Federer

After bowing out of the Madrid Open in the third round last week, world No. 3 Roger Federer looked much more like his usual self after blasting wild card Potito Starace in the second round of the Italian Open on Tuesday.

The second-seeded star will take on Gilles Simon in the third round on Thursday, where he can inch one step closer to a potential final berth. With Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both at the top of the men's draw, and Andy Murray retiring from the tournament on Wednesday, Fed wouldn't have to face a player seeded better than seventh until the Sunday final.

That's great news for the 31-year-old Swiss star, especially considering Thursday's third-round match will be just his fourth on clay in 2013.

Fed needs to continue to gather momentum heading into the French Open, and after opening the Italian Open with a bang, he's definitely on the right track.


Li Na

2011 French Open champion Li Na looks to be back on track after suffering a shocking first-round upset at the hands of American Madison Keys at the Madrid Open last week.

Li crushed fellow Chinese player Jie Zheng on Wednesday in Rome, winning over 70 percent of her first-serve points and breaking her opponent five times in the straight-set victory. Li will take on Jelena Jankovic next in the third round on Thursday.

With a win over Jankovic, Li would be in position to reach the semifinals this weekend. Plus, top-seeded Serena Williams sits atop the women's draw, offering Li a chance to see where her game is just one week before the French Open.

Win or lose, a matchup with world No. 1 Williams would be an excellent barometer for Li on clay.


Juan Martin del Potro

Having played just two clay-court matches coming into this week's Italian Open, 24-year-old Argentine Juan Martin del Potro was in serious need of a win. 

He got just that, though, beating Andrey Kuznetsov in the second round on Tuesday. 

Delpo was impressive in his tournament-opening victory, winning 75 percent of his service points and over 50 percent of his second-serve return points. 

He'll take on unseeded Benoit Paire in the third round on Thursday, with a win pushing him to the quarterfinals, where he would play the winner of Jeremy Chardy vs. Marcel Granollers. That said, the path is set for Delpo to make a run to the semifinals in Rome this weekend.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion could potentially face Roger Federer in the semifinals, and a win there would have Delpo soaring into Roland Garros.


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter