02:55 PM GMT September 16, 2020
When Lorenzo Musetti was young, he would visit the Foro Italico with his friends and family to watch the world’s best tennis players like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. On Tuesday evening at the same venue, Musetti beat one of those legends, defeating Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6(2) in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
“I think it's a dream that came true, and I'm still not believing what I did tonight,” Musetti said. “I just accept that and let's see [what happens] in the next days.”
This was just Musetti’s second tour-level match. The 18-year-old qualified for Dubai earlier this year when he was 17, losing against in-form Andrey Rublev in the main draw. The #NextGenATP Italian is at a career-high No. 249 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he looked like he belonged in this ATP Masters 1000 event.
“I didn't expect this win, but I think I deserved it,” Musetti said. “I played really good tennis and I enjoyed all the points of this match.”
Musetti said numerous times during his press conference that he had fun and enjoyed competing on such a big stage. He has earned €48,360 (about $57,270) in prize money so far this event compared to the $69,634 he had previously made in his career.
“I don't know how many points I got, how much money,” Musetti said. “I just enjoyed the match and I had a lot of fun tonight and hope to keep the process and trust the process of my career and try to play better every point, every day. I think that's my goal of the moment.”
Musetti has gotten comfortable “playing up”. When the Italian was four he began playing tennis at his grandmother’s house. The first time a coach watched him, he almost immediately placed Musetti with much older kids.
For nearly nine years, he has been under the tutelage of Simone Tartarini. Musetti believes the work they did in the lead-up to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia positioned him well for such a strong performance.
“We worked a lot this month. I think I did one step of maturation of my game and my mentality,” Musetti said. “I just focussed on the game.
“I just tried to keep my serve and then in the tie-break I was really brave and I enjoyed a lot playing in this beautiful stadium. I'm really calm, I don't know why. But I was calm also before the match. I think that's the key of my victory.”
Musetti is following in the footsteps of fellow Italian teen Jannik Sinner. One year ago, Sinner won his first Masters 1000 match in Rome and he'd later lift the Next Gen ATP Finals trophy.
"Their success pushes me and it gives me a fire to try to do better. Jannik had an amazing season and it makes me work harder to see him like that," Musetti said. "I hope to have the level like Jannik, because he is the best of us in Italy. I think that will come soon for me."
There is still a long way to go for the teenager, but going toe-to-toe with Wawrinka for his first ATP Tour win — and in many cases, taking it to the Swiss — is a good start.
“Stan has an incredible backhand, incredible serve, a lot of power,” Musetti said. “I think I just managed my weapons the best tonight. At the end, it was incredible.”
Musetti will next play another former Top 5 star when he faces Kei Nishikori in the second round.