September 16, 2020 9:52:08 am
Local teenager Lorenzo Musetti stunned Stan Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6 (2) in the first round of the Italian Open on Tuesday for a memorable first win on tour.
Out-hitting Wawrinka’s famed backhand with a one-handed version of his own, the 18-year-old qualifier moved the three-time Grand Slam champion from corner to corner and displayed an all-court game that belied his years.
Musetti became the first player born in 2002 to win on the ATP tour — after fellow Italian Jannik Sinner achieved the feat last year for players born in 2001.
Wawrinka, who chose not to travel to the U.S. Open, appeared rusty and committed a series of errors early on.
“In the first set and the beginning of the second there was no match,” said Musetti, who won the first eight games.
As the match wore on, though, and Wawrinka began to put up more of a fight, Musetti continued hitting winners and delicate drop volleys. He even had more aces than the hard-serving Wawrinka — five to three.
“I kept thinking, ‘I’m up a set and a break against Wawrinka and he’s starting to click now,’” said the 249th-ranked Musetti, who needed a wild card to get into the qualifying tournament. “Everything was in place for me to fail. But I’ve been working on the mental aspect of the game the most, and I’ve improved a lot over the last month.
“To get win my first match here in Rome — unfortunately without fans — I don’t have words to describe it,” he added.
Musetti, who came through qualifying, was the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Open junior final then won the Australian Open junior title in 2019.
He’s one of a record eight Italians to have reached the second round in Rome.
Roman-born Matteo Berrettini, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, is seeded No. 4 this week. And Marco Cecchinato, the 2018 French Open semifinalist, defeated Kyle Edmund 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, to end a seven-match losing streak.
Wild-card entry Salvatore Caruso, another Italian, defeated American qualifier Tennys Sandgren 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) and will now face Novak Djokovic in the top-ranked Serb’s first match since being defaulted from the U.S. Open.
Caruso saved a match point late in the third set before closing it out after nearly three hours on a steamy 32 degree Celsius (90 degree F) day.
The top-ranked Djokovic, who had a first-round bye, said Monday that he learned “a big lesson” after he was thrown out of the tournament in New York for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.
Djokovic beat Caruso in straight sets in their only career meeting in the third round of last year’s French Open.
Musetti next faces Kei Nishikori, who is returning from right elbow surgery and missed the U.S. Open after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I’m not afraid of anyone,” Musetti said. “I’m just having fun.”
In other matches on Rome’s red clay, U.S. Open quarterfinalists Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov both won in straight sets.
Rublev eliminated Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 6-4; then Shapovalov was even more efficient in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Guido Pella.
Alex de Minaur — another U.S. Open quarterfinalist — was tentative and wasted numerous chances in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) loss to German qualifier Diminik Koepfer.
Also, Argentine qualifier Federico Coria, the younger brother of 2005 Rome runner-up Guillermo Coria, beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-1, 7-6 (5). Coria will next face local favorite Matteo Berrettini, the No. 4 seed.
In the women’s tournament, Katerina Siniakova rolled past three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-1; and last year’s French Open finalist, Markéta Vondroušová, held off a comeback from Japanese qualifier Misaki Doi to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Also, Coco Gauff won her first Tour-level match on clay, sliding into her shots like a veteran in beating 34th-ranked Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-3.
But the 16-year-old American also hit three consecutive double-faults to hand back an early break in the second set before regaining her composure to seal the victory in 1 hour, 21 minutes.
Gauff said she had good results on clay as a junior and noted that she spends a lot of time on the surface at the French academy run by Patrick Mouratoglu, Serena Williams’ coach.
“I’ve been going there since I was 10,” Gauff said. “So I’m quite used to the red clay.”
Gauff’s next opponent will be former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza, who beat Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3 in a match that was interrupted for more than an hour between sets due to rain.
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