Tag: lorenzo musetti

2021 ATP Cup preview: Japan

ELIGIBLE to participate in the 2021 ATP Cup courtesy of Kei Nishikori‘s protected ranking, Japan enters the tournament as clear underdogs alongside Greece. The Asian nation might not have the elite talent Greece has in Stefanos Tsitsipas, but the overall team is better rounded and might yield more consistent results.

TEAM:

Kei Nishikori
Yoshihito Nishioka
Ben McLachlan
Toshihide Matsui

Former world number four, Nishikori is now all the way out in 41st after injuries wrecked the end of his 2019 season and impacted his 2020 year. He played just six ATP Tour matches – winning two – and almost went 12 months without playing a match. Since the US Open in 2019, he returned in Kitzbuhel in September last year, only to lose to Miomir Kecmanovic in three sets on debut. He had a good win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rome the next week, but fell to teenage talent Lorenzo Musetti. From there, he won just the one more match – against Daniel Evans – and played his final game of the year at Roland Garros, losing in five sets to Stefano Travaglia.

Nishikori is clearly a top talent when fit and firing, but having lacked match practice, he might struggle against a lot of the top players. He cannot be underestimated, but a number of the sides’ second players have since gone past him, and it is difficult seeing Japan pick up too many wins. Yoshihito Nishioka is gradually moving up the rankings, in at number 57 in the world, and he reached a career-high of 48th last year.

His sole tournament success came at Shenzhen back in 2018, so he is relatively capped in his ability, though last year he managed to record wins over Top 50 players, Pablo Cuevas, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Laslo Djere and Daniel Evans in the first month. Nishioka also made it all the way to the Delray Beach final before going down to Reilly Opelka in a three-set match. A forgettable mid-2020 was somewhat made up for with a strong finish to the year, but with a 14-12 record, he is one who will likely split his second singles matches.

The doubles combination has some potential with 28-year-old New Zealand-born Ben McLachlan teaming up with Toshihide Matsui. Whilst not familiar as a pairing on the regular ATP Tour, McLachlan is ranked inside the Top 50 for the format, playing a massive 38 tournaments. Matsui is 42-year-old and easily the oldest player in the ATP Cup. Pairing up with McLachlan at the same event last year, they won against Uruguay but lost against the much lower ranked Georgian pairing. He has also not played for 12 months which makes it difficult to predict.

Japan are underdogs for a reason and it would be a surprise to see them advance past the group stage, but miracles can happen.

Picture credit: Zimbio

Young guns to watch on the ITF Tour

THE International Tennis Federation (ITF) is well and truly stacked with developing talent, and Draft Central is beginning to delve into the young guns coming up through the ranks emphasising those who have burst onto the scene and showcased some exciting qualities in their junior years. While many of these players are beginning to feed into the ATP and WTA Tours, there are some great youngsters who are yet to break into the fold and will look to build on their 2020 form heading into the new year. All rankings are as of November 30, 2020,

Junior boys

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)

Age: 17
ATP Tour ranking: 141

An exciting youngster looking to really break onto the ATP Tour scene is Alcaraz, with the developing Spaniard proving he is more than capable of producing excellent wins. With five titles to his name in 2020, including three clay court Challengers to go with his two M15 hard court titles, there is no doubt Alcaraz has the star power to continue propelling himself up the rankings and hitting some real strides.

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

Age: 18
ATP Tour ranking: 128

The young Italian is the second ranked youngster on the ATP Tour at the moment, and it shows in his consistency and drive to continue going one better. While still developing his craft and looking to continue his strong efforts against top 100 players, Musetti has showcased plenty of potential on Tour since debuting in 2019, and will look to keep his strong run going in 2021.

Brandon Nakashima (USA)

Age: 19
ATP Tour ranking:
166

American youngster Nakashima is a talent worth keeping an eye on, with the ability to be the next big thing credit to his high work rate and powerful swing. Like Musetti, Nakashima’s ability to shock top 100 players has been a key to developing his skill, flourishing on wildcard entries and using his athleticism to fly out of the blocks. Currently at his peak ranking and steadily developing, look to see Nakashima continue well into 2021.

Harold Mayot (FRA)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking:
1
ATP Tour ranking: 
426

ITF world number one Mayot is an exciting developing talent, with the 2020 Junior Australian Open title under his belt and a proven winning ability. With plenty of tenacity and determination, Mayot still has a way to go before truly impacting on the ATP Tour scene, but there is no doubt he will get there once he further develops against strong, more experienced bodies.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 2
ATP Tour ranking: 511

A consistent performer on the ITF Tour, Rune is one to watch in the future. While he did not win a Challenger tournament, as was his 2020 goal, three M15 titles on the senior ITF Tour is certainly nothing to sniff about. More than that, and it proves the 17-year-old is more than capable of competing against those bigger bodies in the future, especially on his preferred surface of clay.

Dominic Stephan Stricker (SUI)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking: 3

While Stricker is yet to really break onto the ATP Tour scene, the youngster has proven he is ready to step up to the next level and with a current ranking of third on the ITF rankings, there is no doubt he has the capacity to do so when he gets an opportunity – and an uninterrupted season. A Junior Roland Garros title in 2020 and the likes of Roger Federer to look up to certainly will aid in his progression heading into 2021.

Junior girls

Coco Gauff (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 48

One of the most high profile young guns in the world at the moment, Gauff is the gift that keeps on giving with her rate of development and potential given how far she has come in such a short time. Still just 16-years-old, Gauff’s  ability to leave it all on the court and command victory as an underdog – including two straight sets victories over Venus Williams – have seen her rocket into media attention.

Daria Lopatetska (UKR)

Age: 17
WTA Tour ranking: 355

Another exciting youngster breaking onto the scene is Lopatetska, with the versatile Ukrainian able to put out excellent efforts across a range of surfaces and, even with an interrupted season following on from major knee surgery in 2019, has showcased plenty of grit and determination to get back out there. With a heap of potential and Elina Svitolina on her side, it is only a matter of time before Lopatetska is back on the cards.

Katrina Scott (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 447

Scott may still be only 16-years-old, but her exciting potential has seen her rocket into contention on the WTA Tour alongside Gauff, following her compatriot’s footsteps onto the senior rankings well before expected. A competitive youngster who has showed no signs of stopping since her debut at the 2020 US Open as a wildcard, expect Scott to continue developing and keep the USA superpower going as she heads up the rankings.

Polina Kudermetova (RUS)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 6
WTA Tour ranking: 775

The younger sister of Veronika Kudermetova, there is no doubt 17-year-old Polina knows what it takes really break onto the WTA Tour stage. While she has not really made it there yet – in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited court time – the Russian youngster is a proven winner throughout the years and, with an ability to fight every second, will look to continue developing with more time in 2021.

Elsa Jacquemot (FRA)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 1
WTA Tour ranking: 535

The 2020 Junior Roland Garros winner and current world number one on the junior ITF Tour, Jacquemot is one to watch in the future. With two titles to her name in 2020 and a whopping 89 per cent win rate – 12 straight on clay – the French 17-year-old may not have broken onto the WTA Tour just yet but certainly has the proven winning ability to be a huge threat on Tour.

Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND)

Age: 15
ITF Tour ranking: 2

The youngest player on this list is 15-year-old Andorran Jimenez Kasintseva, and while she is still developing her court craft there is no denying she is a star of the future, holding the Junior Australian Open title in 2020 and only leaving top spot on the ITF rankings when Jacquemot took out the Roland Garros title. With an overall win rate of 88 per cent and just three losses on tour, expect big things from the young gun.

ATP Teenage Stars – Lorenzo Musetti

AN impressive Italian with a wealth of exciting traits, Lorenzo Musetti is well on his way to being a hugely threatening player on the ATP Tour. Still fairly young, the 18-year-old only turned professional in 2019 and, despite a challenging and interrupted season, has showcased his wares well to hit a career-high ranking of world number 123 in October. While Musetti has dropped a couple of ranks since then to sit at 128th, the youngster has more than proved his potential with a combination of hard work and persistence, continuing to develop his game and capable of pulling off some impressive wins.

Despite not having a heap of ATP Tour experience against the top echelon of players given the extensive break due to COVID-19 in 2020, Musetti has showcased plenty of potential with wins over Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Pablo Cuevas this year, with a solid 5-3 win ratio finishing off the year that was. Add that to his 2020 16-10 Challenger win rate and there is no doubt Musetti is on the up.

A former junior world number one on the ITF circuit, as recent as mid-2019, Musetti won the 2019 Junior Australian Open and was named the first Italian to claim a junior Grand Slam title, while as a qualifier at the Rome Masters in September he made the Round of 16 with a clean sweep over both Wawrinka and Nishikori in straight sets propelling him up the rankings.

“There is excitement and happiness for the results that so much work has brought, but I tend not to overdo it and to stay with my feet on the ground,” Musetti told Esquire in October. “Also because in my sport you have little time to enjoy a victory. “After the one in Rome … I had two days to celebrate and then I immediately left for Forlì.”

“I like to vary a lot, my game is made up of variations and this is an advantage in modern tennis, where several players do not have a “Plan B” but only a “Plan A” and get into trouble if the opponent turns the situation around.”

ATP Teenage Stars – Carlos Alcaraz

A YOUNG Spaniard with plenty of potential, there is no doubt 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz is on the way up in the world with a serious talent and flair on the court. Factor in that he is in the unprecedented position of following in Rafael Nadal’s footsteps and breaking onto the ATP Tour scene in the latter stages of the great’s career, and Alcaraz could well be the next clay court star on the professional circuit.

Still young and very raw, Alvarez is a player who has benefited off the unprecedented COVID-19 break in 2020, with a focus on ATP Challenger tournaments to boost his Tour standings, and currently sits 140th in the world – the youngest on Tour alongside fellow talents Lorenzo Musetti (18-years-old) and Jannik Sinner (19-years-old) within the top 300 – which is a huge testament to his development. 

Alcaraz has won three Challenger tournaments in 2020, making his tally five for the year – a feat that even in an uninterrupted season is an impressive effort – and given the youngster started his year ranked only just within the top 500, there is plenty of talent there. 

Looking at the stats, and the Spaniard is clearly another from the same brand of clay court compatriots already showcasing their wares on Tour, with a 1-1 win rate on the ATP Tour in 2020 given his focus on Challengers, but a whopping 39-7 win rate on the ITF Circuit this season. A 100 per cent success rate across 10 hard court matches is a solid enough record, and then with the addition of his 29 clay court victories for seven losses there is no doubt Alcaraz is an impressive upcoming talent.

Alcaraz has plenty of drive and ambition, telling EFE in early November that he aspires to not only reach the top 100 to enter the 2021 Roland Garros but also complete the year in the ATP top 50. 

“I would like to enter the final table at Roland Garros, for which I would have to be a top 100, and finish the year in the top 50. I see myself capable of doing great things,” Alcaraz said. “(2020) has been a great year, which has made me see that I am closer to the goals than I thought.”

The young gun is by no means cocky though, aware that he has improvements to make and willing to put in the hard yards to be the best he can be, with an eventual goal of breaking into the Davis Cup team, but faced with plenty of competition from his compatriots given his nation’s consistent and continual success on the ATP Tour. 

“Right now I would say that the serve is what I have to polish the most and I must work thoroughly,” Alcaraz said. “I hope to be there (Davis Cup) one day and it would be a dream come true, although Spain, luckily, has many players in the top 100 and it is not easy to get on that list.”

“The best have been the results I have been able to obtain and the great work done, also in quarantine, and the worst have been not being able to play for five months in a row. After what I have done I really want to start 2021.”

Auger-Aliassime advances to Cologne final as Cecchinato blasts into Sardinia decider

TWO rising stars will face off at Cologne, as two clay court specialists go head-to-head in Sardinia for the finals of the ATP 250 events following their semi-finals victories today.

In Germany, top seed Alexander Zverev reached the Cologne final after a tight two-set win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and will not play third seed Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the indoor hard court event. The Canadian had to fight hard but gave himself a chance at his first title, taking three sets to down second seed Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. Auger-Aliassime won 6-3 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 50 minutes to advance through to the final.

Serving seven aces and winning 73 per cent of his first serve points, the young Canadian found the going tough against his more experienced opponent, with Bautista Agut his ever-reliable self throughout the match. The Spaniard did well off Auger-Aliassime’s second serve, winning 52 per cent of the points, whilst both players broke twice from six chances. Luckily for the third seed, aside from a disappointing second set, he broke once in each of the first and third sets to claim the victory.

“It’s a good win. It’s good for my confidence to be able to beat Roberto since he beat me last time last year in a tough match,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “Obviously I’m happy to beat a player like this today.”

Now Auger-Aliassime sets his sights on Zverev who knocked off Davidovich Fokina 7-5 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes. The German hit 10 aces to zero and won 72 per cent of his first serve points, breaking twice from seven chances to the Spaniard’s once from two chances, to get away with the victory. The Canadian said it would be a tough match against an opponent who had beaten him in both the matches they had played.

“I’ve practised with him many times back home… hopefully tomorrow I can give myself chances to win. It’s going to be a great battle,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “We’ve already played twice and for sure it’s the start of our careers and we’re going to play many times. This is our first final playing [each other] and hopefully not the last.”

COLOGNE SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5 7-6
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-3 1-6 6-3

Italian clay courter Marco Cecchinato was back at his best in the Sardinia Open with a stunning 6-1 6-0 victory over Serbian lucky loser Danilo Petrovic to advance through to the final of the event. He dropped just one game in a match shy of an hour, winning 65 per cent of the points, including 50 and 78 per cent off Petrovic’s serve. On serve, Cecchinato only dropped 13 points on his way to a comprehensive five breaks from 11 chances without facing a break point himself.

Now the Italian wildcard will hope to win on home soil when he takes on unseeded Serbian Laslo Djere. Whilst Cecchinato has won three titles, his next opponent Djere has only won the one, with the world number 74 hoping to double that tally in the final. He had his hands full against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti during a come-from-behind three-set win which saw the 18-year-old Italian retire in the third set.

Djere won 2-6 6-2 4-1 before the Italian had to retire with a right elbow concern, as the 25-year-old won 10 of the last 13 games before posting the win. He served the only three aces of the match and won 69 and 52 per cent of his first and second serve points, then broke four times to three. It was enough to get the upper hand in the third set after his opponent was in clear distress with his elbow.

“I knew that he was playing really well, had a lot of confidence and had some great results in the past few weeks, but I didn’t expect the high level that he played in the first set,” Djere said post-match. “It surprised me a bit and I didn’t have the answer.

“I managed to stay focused and fought back in the second set, which I am really happy about. “My level was higher in the second set, [as was] my intensity. I changed tactics a little bit and I was more focused on my serve.”

SARDINIA SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [LL] Danilo Petrovic (SRB) 6-1 6-0
Laslo Djere (SRB) defeated [WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 2-6 6-2 4-1

Picture: Getty Images

Top three seeds move through in Germany as Italians and Serbians face off in Sardinia

IT could not be more counter-contrasting at the two ATP 250 events in Germany and Italy, with all the predictable results advancing at Cologne on the hard courts, whilst the final seed remaining in Sardinia bowed out.

The top three seeds all advanced in Germany, with home nation hope, Alexander Zverev leading the way following the top seed’s momentum-swinging 6-4 3-6 6-0 victory over South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Zverev was inconsistent at times but eventually stormed away with the win, notching up the victory in an hour and 46 minutes. He hit eight aces to five and won 69 per cent of his first serves to 59 per cent, breaking five times, three of which came in the one-sided final set.

“I have got to do a better job of keeping my focus until the end of a match. I relaxed a little bit and then he picked up his game,” Zverev said post-match.

“Playing on the ATP Tour, you only play great players. “Once you lose your focus, it doesn’t matter what your ranking is, it doesn’t matter how many titles you won, you have still got to play until the end otherwise it can go the other way very quickly.”

Zverev was far from alone in competing in three setters, now set to face the last remaining unseeded player at Cologne in Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The world number 71 knocked off Dennis Novak in the other quarter final for the top half of the draw, taking almost two hours to win 6-3 2-6 6-3.

Not a known big server, Davidovich Fokina only won the 57 and 35 per cent off his first and second serve points, but really hammered home off Novak’s second serve with a 70 per cent success rate to break eight times to seven in the match.

Meanwhile compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut had a similar experience to Zverev, having a couple of tight sets before storming to a 6-0 win in the decider. Bautista Agut defeated sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 5-7 6-0 to win in two hours and 30 minutes and book his place in the Cologne semi-finals. He weathered 14 aces from Hurkacz and had only broken once in the first two sets, then broke his opponents three times in the final set to advance.

In the last quarter final, Felix Auger-Aliassime made his way through in no time, winning in the easiest match of the round to defeat Moldovan Radu Albot, 6-3 6-0. That match lasted 72 minutes as he hit four aces and won 71 and 63 per cent of his first and second serve points, also breaking five times to one and dominating in all facets of the game to set up a semi-finals meeting with Bautista Agut.

COLOGNE QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4 3-6 6-0
[2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated [6] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 7-6 5-7 6-0
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Radu Albot (MOL) 6-3 6-0
Alexander Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-3 2-6 6-3

Meanwhile in Italy, the semi-finals resemble something no one could have predicted with a couple of Italians and a couple of Serbians booking their spots in the final four.

Teenage future star, Lorenzo Musetti continued his run since the COVID-19 break with an 88-minute victory over German, Yannick Hanfmann to become the youngest ATP Tour semi-finalist since fellow 18-year-old Jannik Sinner 12 months ago. He won 67 per cent of his first serve points off a 63 per cent efficiency, whilst making the most of break point opportunities, capitalising on five of six chances compared to his opponents’ two of 11.

“It’s amazing,” Musetti said post-match. “Last week, I was playing in Parma and losing to Frances [Tiafoe], a great player. “I was thinking of coming here and trying to go as far as I could, but I am living my best moments in Sardinia. “I am playing my best tennis here.

“I was in trouble a little bit in the second set, as Yannick was returning so well. I had a great attitude in the second set, fighting for every point to win six games in a row. “I think my great weeks in Rome and Forli took me to this level of confidence to keep me at this playing level. I have learned more about how to manage match pressure and how to behave on the court.”

Now Musetti will head on to face the highest remaining player in the draw, in Serbian Laslo Djere. He is ranked 74th in the world, though is much better than his ranking might suggest, winning against Czech Jiri Vesely in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. The match lasted 83 minutes as he did not face a break point, and broke off both of his two chances, capitalising from Vesely’s low second serve percentage of 40 per cent.

Djere is the only top 100 player remaining in the draw with the 143rd ranked Musetti in alongside the 103rd ranked Marco Cecchinato and 166th ranked Danilo Petrovic in the other Sardinia semi-final. Wildcard Cecchinato defeated fourth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three sets, 4-6 6-1 6-1 to make his way through to the final four, while Petrovic knocked off Argentinian Federico Delbonis 7-6 6-1.

SARDINIA QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [4] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-1
[LL] Danilo Petrovic (SRB) defeated Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-1
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-2 6-4
Laslo Djere (SRB) defeated Jan Vesely (CZE) 6-4 6-4

Picture: Getty Images

Ruud downed at Sardinia while seeds prevail in Cologne

IT was another big day across the two ATP 250 tournaments, seeing a much more successful pursuit from the respective home nations in Germany and Italy though a couple more seeds fell across the two competitions. Sardinia favourite Casper Ruud was the upset of the round, downed in straight sets and seeing just one seed remain in Italy.

At Cologne, top seed Alexander Zverev had no issue disposing of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-1 in 63 minutes, while Canadian young gun and third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime downed qualifier Henri Laaksonen with the same scoreline and taking an extra 14 minutes to get the job done. Both winners in Zverev and Auger-Aliassime were excellent off their serve, hitting seven aces apiece and racing ahead winning 84 per cent and 90 per cent of their first serve points respectively. 

Where Verdasco was unsuccessful, compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was far more threatening downing eighth seed Croatian Marin Cilic in the lone three-setter of the day. While Cilic ran away with a convincing first set, it was the tight second set that set the tone for Davidovich, winning the second set tiebreaker and stealing momentum for the final set to come away with the 3-6 7-6 6-2 victory. Meanwhile, second seed Roberto Bautista Agut continued his fine form against a fighting Gilles Simon, outlasting the Frenchman in the 6-4 7-6, two-hour and 19-minute battle.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4 6-1
[2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-4 7-6
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-4 6-1
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [8] Marin Cilic (CRO) 3-6 7-6 6-2

At Sardinia, Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the only remaining seed left after both Ruud and Tommy Paul were knocked out. Ramos-Vinolas impressed in the first set against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, running away with a solid 6-0 6-3 victory, but it was German Yannick Hanfmann who absolutely stole the show with a whopping 64 minute demolition of Ruud, 6-2 6-1. Hanfmann rendered Ruud much less efficient than usual, forcing errors from the usually more clinical Norwegian and excelling off Ruud’s serve at a 54 per cent winning rate. Ruud hit three double faults and failed to win a single break point in what was a disappointing outing for the third seed.

Two of the three Italian competitors made it through to the quarter finals, with wildcards Marco Cecchinato and Lorenzo Musetti both coming away successful. While Musetti knocked off compatriot Andrea Pellegrino in a 6-2 6-1 demolition in just 59 minutes, Cecchinato outlasted a tough first set from seventh seed American Paul to run away with an 88-minute victory, 7-6 6-4. Cecchinato’s excellent service game was the clincher, winning points off 90 per cent of his first serve including  four aces for zero double faults. 

SARDINIA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-0 6-3
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated [3] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-2 7-5
[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [7] Tommy Paul (USA) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [Q] Andrea Pellegrino (ITA) 6-2 6-1

Struff suffers second consecutive loss to German qualifier, as Italian teen Musetti’s run continues

TWO ATP 250 events took off today with the Round of 32 in both Cologne, Germany and Sardinia, Italy with some upset results. Three seeds were ousted across both tournaments, with just two getting up as it was bad news for second ranked German, Jan-Lennard Struff, whilst great news for Italian teen sensation, Lorenzo Musetti.

In Cologne, Stuff suffered his second consecutive loss across two tournaments to German qualifiers, backing up his shock defeat to compatriot Daniel Altmaier at Roland Garros with a straight sets defeat at the hands of fellow German, Oscar Otte. The 142nd ranked Otte needed just 79 minutes to defeat the seventh seed, breaking four times to two and winning 76 per cent of his first serve points to triumph 6-4 6-3. He joined another German in wildcard, Mischa Zverev in the second round after he rather easily defeated Australian John Millman in straight sets, 6-1 6-4. Currently ranked 268th, Zverev showed he has the same ability as his older brother Alexander, winning in an identical 79 minutes against the 44th ranked Australian, with six breaks to two.

The other big upset of the day was American Steve Johnson – who bounced back from one of his worst performances in recent memory at Roland Garros where he won just two games in three sets against Roberto Carballes Baena – to knock off rising Serbian, and fifth seed Filip Krajinovic in just over three hours. Johnson won 3-6 6-4 6-4 to book his spot in the next round courtesy of 10 aces and a 76 per cent success rate off his first serve points. Also through to the second round was sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz who knocked off lucky loser, Australian Marc Polmans, while Dennis Novak compounded the day to forget for Australia with a 6-3 6-3 win over Jordan Thompson, and Romania’s Radu Albot defeated Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in three sets, 6-2 4-6 6-4

COLOGNE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Steve Johnson (USA) defeated [5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 3-6 6-4 6-4
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[Q] Oscar Otte (GER) defeated [7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-4 6-3
Radu Albot (ROU) defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-2 4-6 6-4
[6] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated [LL] Marc Polmans (AUS) 6-2 7-5
[WC] Mischa Zverev (GER) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-1 6-4

There were only the four matches played in Sardinia, with Musetti once again taking the headlines thanks to the 18-year-old knocking off eighth seed Pablo Cuevas. Musetti clocked up his seventh top 100 win in a month as he continues to rise up the ATP Tour rankings, defeating the Argentinian on his preferred clay surface to win 7-6 7-5. He won 63 and 58 per cent of his first and second serve points respectively in the match, battling hard against the determined veteran to hold his own and eventually earn a spot in the next round.

“Pablo is a clay player and a really tough player with a lot of experience,” Musetti said post-match. “I knew from the beginning it would be really tough tennis.”

Now Musetti will take on fellow Italian, Andrea Pellegrino who knocked off another home nation representative in Stefano Travaglia. The latter was forced to retire due to a headache, with Pellegrino getting up 4-6 7-6 3-0. Meanwhile in other results, seventh seed Tommy Paul put a first set loss behind him to knock over Slovakian lucky loser Andrej Martin, 5-7 6-3 7-5. In the other match, Czech Jiri Vesely held off a determined Kamil Majchrzak who made things interesting in the second set, before Vesely steadied at the end to win, 6-1 7-5.

SARDINIA ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[7] Tommy Paul (USA) defeated [LL] Andrej Martin (SVK) 5-7 6-3 7-5
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [8] Pablo Cuevas (ARG) 7-6 7-5
[Q] Andrea Pellegrino (ITA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 4-6 7-6 3-0 RET
Jiri Vesely (CZE) ddefeated Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 6-1 7-5

Picture: Getty Images

Clay courters continue run as Berrettini last Italian standing in quarter finals

MATTEO Berrettini was the sole Italian to win his third round match after a record four players from the home nation made their way through to the final 16 at the Rome Masters. Berrettini indeed ended the run of one of them, knocking off compatriot Stefano Travaglia in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6. The first tiebreaker was 7-5 and the second a more comfortable 7-1, in two hours of match play.

The world number eight and fourth seed won 71 and 74 per cent of his first and second serve points off a serving efficiency of 73 per cent. The match was far from clinical, but the top ranked Italian was cleaner when it counted and booked his spot in his second ATP Masters 1000 quarter final against Norwegian, Casper Ruud.

Ruud overcame challenging Croatian, Marin Cilic in an hour and 33 minutes, defeating the 2018 Rome Masters semi-finalist 6-2 7-6. Ruud held on in a tense tiebreaker to win it 8-6 and book his spot in the last eight after Cilic came hard in the tiebreaker, saving two match points at 4-6, but Ruud got there in the end.

Also exiting the Rome Masters were Italian teenagers, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti. The latter has caught the attention of the ATP Tour with back-to-back wins over former top five players Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, but his run came to an end at the hands of in-form German qualifier Dominik Koepfer, 6-4 6-0. Meanwhile it was Grigor Dimitrov who came from behind to defeat wildcard Sinner, 4-6 6-4 6-4.

The match lasted two hours and 24 minutes before the Bulgarian could salute, having to battle from a set down to win and make his way through to the quarter finals. The counter puncher hit 19 winners during the match, but it was his consistency that frustrated Sinner, who smacked 65 unforced errors in a loose performance.

Having reached a semi-final here before in 2014, Dimitrov now takes on Canadian young gun, Denis Shapovalov for the chance to repeat the feat in 2020. Shapovalov knocked off Frenchman Ugo Humbert in three sets, 6-7 6-1 6-4 to turn the tables on his opponent after losing to him earlier this year. Hitting 27 winners and controlling the net, Shapovalov was more consistent in what was a tight contest.

Meanwhile Novak Djokovic had to fight hard, but eventually saluted against compatriot Filip Krajinovic to reach the final eight for the 14th straight year in Rome. Krajinovic matched it with the world number one for the most part, winning 30 per cent off his opponent’s first serve, and 48 per cent off his second, much higher than most of Djokovic’s opponents.

In the end, the world number one only won nine more points than his lower ranked countryman, but it was enough to win 7-6 6-3 and face Koepfer in the quarter finals.

“It was definitely one of the longest sets I think I have ever played,” Djokovic said post-match. “Never easy, I think, emotionally to play against someone that is one of my best friends for many years… I think the first set could have gone a different way, as well. “Fortunately for me it went my way, and that allowed me to swing through the ball a bit more in the second set. Maybe physically and mentally he dropped a level, and I used my opportunities and capitalised to win in straight sets.”

In other results, tournament favourite Rafael Nadal breezed through to the quarter finals with a 6-1 6-3 triumph over Serb Dusan Lajovic, while Argentinian eighth seed Diego Schwartzman accounted for Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in three sets, 3-6 6-2 6-4. The two winners lock horns in the final eight for a spot in the semi-finals.

Musetti takes down second consecutive former top five player as seeds begin to fall

LORENZO Musetti has backed up his stunning upset of Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka by downing another former top five player in Kei Nishikori at the Rome Masters’ Round of 32. The Japanese 2014 US Open finalist was returning for his third match in 12 months, but the exciting Italian teenager continued his remarkable form with a 6-3 6-4 win over Nishikori.

The match lasted an hour and 42 minutes, with Musetti winning 78 per cent of his first serve points, and saving all five break point opportunities, whilst capitalising on two of six from his opponent. Those two breaks were enough to win through in straight sets and book a spot in the Round of 16. What is arguably the most impressive aspect is Musetti has been able to defeat a power hitter in Wawrinka, and now a counterpuncher in Nishikori, showing his versatility.

“It was an incredible match,” Musetti said post-match. “I think I played really smart, as he was playing close to the baseline. “It was different to Wawrinka, they are great champions. “I am really happy right now. “I felt really good on my forehand from the beginning. “I could play more offensively on return, than against Stan.”

Musetti becomes the first Italian teenager since 1989 to reach the last 16 of the Rome Masters. He could make further history if he can overcome German, Dominik Koepfer in his next match. Koepfer had a massive upset of his own, downing French fifth seed Gael Monfils, 6-2 6-4. Furthermore, Musetti became another part of history, with an Open era-tying record of four Italians are through to the Round of 16.

It was only the second time in history it had happened, with 1979 being the other occurrence, but Musetti joined fourth seed, Matteo Berrettini, and wildcards Jannik Sinner and Stefano Travaglia in the final 16.

Meanwhile in other results, three additional seeds to Monfils fell on a big day of upsets, as seventh seed Fabio Fognini, ninth seed Andrey Rublev and 11th seed Milos Raonic all bid Rome farewell. French youngster Ugo Humbert defeated Fognini – who could have made it a record amount of Italians through to the last 16 – in two tight sets 7-5 7-6, as Hubert Hurkacz took down the in-form Rublev 7-6 3-6 6-2, while Dusan Lajovic sent Raonic packing 7-6 4-6 6-2.

In more predictable results, eighth seed Diego Schwartzman continued his run with a 6-4 7-6 win over John Millman, while 12th seed Denis Shapovalov toppled Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, 6-4 6-4. In the other match on the day, Norwegian Casper Ruud followed through on his favourite surface with a win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego to stop a record amount of Italians making it through.

Shapovalov said it was tough backing up on clay after a Grand Slam on hard court, but the players were in a unique situation and all had the same circumstances.

“Of course it’s very tough,” Shapovalov said post-match. “Especially after the Grand Slam, your body just kind of naturally wants to relax. Going into a match here is definitely a little bit difficult, but I’m really happy with the way I have been able to maintain my level and maintain physically.”