02:50 PM GMT September 16, 2020
#NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti earned the biggest win of his young career Tuesday evening at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, stunning three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6(2) in the first round. This is the 18-year-old’s first ATP Tour victory.
Musetti had only played one tour-level match before facing the former World No. 3 in Rome. But the teen, who won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, showed few nerves at the Foro Italico. He displayed an aggressive all-court game to oust Wawrinka after one hour and 24 minutes.
"I have seen him play on television and I know he is a very tough player," said Musetti, who will play Kei Nishikori in the second round. "I'm going to enjoy the victory before I start thinking about my match against Nishikori."
After a first set full of unforced errors off Wawrinka’s racquet that led him to lose the first eight games, the Swiss raised his level in the second set. The World No. 17 played heavier, safer groundstrokes to work his way back into the match, overcoming an early break deficit to get back on serve. But Musetti was undeterred, showing no fear from the baseline or in the forecourt.
The teen, at a career-high World No. 249, rose to the occasion in the second-set tie-break. Musetti held his ground on the baseline and controlled points against the 35-year-old, finishing off his victory with a winning cross-court forehand passing shot.
"First set was almost perfect. Second set he tried to play better," Musetti said. "He was focussed on the match and he wanted to win the set, but I served really good. I mixed a lot with the wide serve, T and body serve. I think the serve was the key to have the lead of the game."
Musetti has a free-swinging forehand and an artistic one-handed backhand, which differs from countrymen Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner, who hit a two-handed backhand. Throughout the match Musetti showed great variety on his backhand wing, adding a lot of shape to the ball to push Wawrinka back or taking it early to hit winners down the line.
"This kid's backhand is incredible!" said former World No. 1 Jim Courier, who broadcasted the match for Tennis Channel.
Musetti also was comfortable coming to net and he used his forehand drop shot in key moments. The 18-year-old also showed good feel for points, guessing the right way on multiple occasions to retrieve Wawrinka overheads.
When Musetti was born, Wawrinka already had earned FedEx ATP Ranking points. The Italian is the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP Tour match. Musetti won 49 per cent of his return points and broke Wawrinka's serve four times.
Former junior World No. 1 Musetti won the 2019 Australian Open boys’ singles championship, defeating Emilio Nava in the final by winning a 26-point tie-break in the third set. He is the youngest player competing in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Wawrinka, the 2008 Rome finalist, won an ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague last month. This was his 16th consecutive appearance in this event.
Did You Know?
Wawrinka, 35, and Musetti, 18, were the oldest and youngest players in the Rome draw, respectively.