Written byRajdeep Saha
Rafael Nadal is set to be in action after a six-month break chasing a tenth Italian Open title in Rome.
Rival Novak Djokovic will stand in Nadal's way as he will next bid for a 13th Roland Garros crown later this month.
World number one Djokovic is a four-time Rome winner and five-time runner-up.
He had lost to Nadal last year in the final.
The 33-year-old is the top seed ahead of world number two Nadal, in the build-up for the final Grand Slam of the season, starting September 27.
Djokovic won the French Open in 2016, with Nadal sealing the the next three honors.
Recently, Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open 2020 after he accidentally hit the lineswoman.
The Serbian was playing in the fourth round against Carreno Busta, when in frustration, he struck the ball which hit the lineswoman.
She was helped by umpire Aurelie Tourte and Djokovic. After a long discussion, he was defaulted.
Nadal, 34, has not played since winning in Acapulco at the end of February.
The Spaniard opens his Rome challenge on Wednesday against 27th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta, who reached the US Open semi-finals.
Rafa could play either Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or seventh seeded Italian Fabio Fognini for a place in the final.
Nadal has a 61-6 tournament record and is the favorite.
Serena withdrew from the WTA clay-court tournament due to a left Achilles tendon injury sustained in her US Open semi-final defeat, the tour announced.
Serena, who was chasing her record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles crown, lost to Victoria Azarenka in three sets on Thursday.
"I regretfully must withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia due to an Achilles strain," Williams said in a statement.
Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty withdrew from Rome earlier in the week. She had also pulled out of the US Open.
After the US Open high, Osaka is also set to be absent.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep headlines the women's event which also includes defending champion Karolina Pliskova and two-time Rome winner Elina Svitolina.
Venus Williams will start her campaign against US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka.
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