An 18-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti has been one of the teenagers to watch in 2020. A former Australian Open junior champion kicked off the season from outside the top-350, working hard on improvements and playing on a high level after the season restart in August.
The youngster passed all three qualifying rounds at the home Masters 1000 event in Rome, facing a former finalist Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. In the battle of the youngest and oldest players in the draw, an 18-year-old Musetti defeated the 35-year-old Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6.
Thus, a qualifier delivered the first ATP victory for the 2002 generation, repeating what Jannik Sinner did at Foro Italico a year ago against Steve Johnson for generation 2001. Musetti wrapped up the encounter in an hour and 23 minutes, showing his rich talent and the abilities to chase much higher ranking positions in 2021.
There was no crowd to support the youngster against an experienced rival, but he had momentum on his side following qualifying victories. On the other hand, Wawrinka hadn't played since two Challengers in Prague in August, struggling to find the opener's rhythm and falling short in set number two to propel the Italian over the top.
Lorenzo faced only one break point in the entire clash, getting broken but keeping the scoreboard under control with four straight breaks on his tally. Serving at 72%, the youngster had the upper hand in the opening set, delivering three breaks for a bagel.
Wawrinka sprayed a forehand error in the first game for the worst start, finding himself 3-0 down when his backhand landed long. Delivering effective shots from both wings, Musetti grabbed another break at 4-0 and closed the opener on his serve for a bagel.
Stan had to chase the result from the second set's first game, dropping nine of the first ten games to find himself 6-0, 3-1 down.
Lorenzo Musetti defeated Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in Rome.
The three-time Major champion raised his level from that moment, pulling the break back at 2-3 following a loose drop shot from Lorenzo and fending off two break chances in the next game to move 4-3 in front after a booming serve.
The returners couldn't do much in the remaining five games to reach the tie break, a must-win one for Wawrinka. Stan sent a forehand long in the first point to give the youngster a mini-break, pulling it back for 1-1. Lorenzo opened a 3-1 lead following another wild forehand from the Swiss, moving further in front with a well-constructed attack and a volley winner.
Returning at 6-2, the Italian landed a forehand crosscourt winner to seal the deal and score the biggest triumph of his young career, the first on the ATP level for his generation. In the second round, Lorenzo defeated Kei Nishikori for another notable victory before falling to Dominik Koepfer in the third round.
"I have seen Stan playing on TV, and I know he is a tough player to beat. I'm going to enjoy the victory before I start thinking about my next match against Nishikori. The first set was almost perfect. In the second, he tried to play better and raise his level.
He was focused and determined to win the set, but I served well, mixing those and finding the right angles. I think the serve was the key that propelled me through. I would put my victory over Wawrinka ahead of the one I scored against Nishikori.
It was a surprise; I played great in the first set, and I think he didn't expect it. Then in the second, he tried to come back, but I was good at holding up and winning the tie break. I would certainly like to relive those moments at the Foro Italico," Lorenzo Musetti said.