Novak Djokovic will square off for the first time at the same event with Carlos Alcaraz in the mix as the pair continue the see-saw battle for ATP No. 1 status.
The 35-year-old Djokovic currently holds down the top spot, with Sinner nipping at his heels; the Spaniard who just turned 20 can return to the top after his opening match against compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Djokovic will not stress over the possibility after making his own return to the clay after skipping the Madrid date with a lingering elbow injury of which little is known.
The pair will be crossing paths for the first time in months after various injury absences.
“It’s strange we haven’t been in the same draw since the beginning of the season,” 22-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic said on Thursday.
“He’s going to be No. 1 (again) after this tournament, whatever happens – deservedly so.
“He’s been playing some very impressive tennis; he’s the player to beat on this surface, no doubt.”
Missing from Rome is injured Spanish icon Rafael Nadal, who has not played since an early loss at the Australian Open.
“Alcaraz is one of the top favorites without any dilemma,” Djokovic said. “He’s been playing fantastic tennis.
“If we get a chance to face each other here would be in the finals; we would both love that.”
But he warned: “it’s a long tournament, there’s a lot of great players. It’s a buildup for me and for him coming into this tournament and also the French Open.”