Paolo Lorenzi will turn 38 in December, which means he’s an age-mate of Feliciano Lopez or Roger Federer. The Italian is through to the third round of the 2019 US Open after getting into the tournament as a lucky loser.
Paolo Lorenzi at the US Open
Lorenzi lost to Jiri Vesely in the final round of qualifying but got in after Kevin Anderson decided to withdraw. Because the South African pulled out after the draw was made, Lorenzi took his spot and had to face 16-year-old wild card Zachary Svajda in the first round.
Despite being an overwhelming favorite, the Italian lost the first two sets and found himself with his back against the wall. Lorenzi wasn’t playing well and let the 21-years-younger opponent bully him around the court. The world No. 135 outlasted the American to win in four hours and 24 minutes, completing his first career comeback from being down two sets to love.
This time as a huge underdog, Lorenzi took down Miomir Kecmanovic on Thursday, surviving almost five hours of play against a 19-year-old opponent. It was a stunning performance from the Italian, who managed to surprise his opponent by playing very aggressively for his standards and taking the matters into his own hands.
As you might have noticed, the combined age of his first two opponents was 35–two years shy of Lorenzi’s own age.
Lorenzi is an extraordinarily late-bloomer. The Italian played his first Grand Slam at the age of 28 and didn’t reach his first ATP final until four years later. He lost his first 13 matches at Majors and won the fourteenth one by retirement.
The 2016 Austrian Open champion peaked at No.33 in the ATP Rankings. During his career he’s played mostly Challenger Tour events, amassing a spectacular 21 titles at this level.
Strengths and weaknesses
Starting with the bad stuff, the 37-year-old is not a natural attacker. His groundstroke technique is very well suited to clay, carrying a lot of topspin with no real option to flatten it out. That makes it very easy to get him out of his comfort zone. Lorenzi finds it hard to counteract if his opponent is redlining.
The Italian is a great counterpuncher. Even at the age of 37, he covers the court exceptionally well. Albeit weird-looking and not something a tennis coach would teach, his serving technique is pretty good for his physique, and the first serve does have a lot of pop.
On the other hand, the world No.135’s volleying technique is absolute perfection. He often uses unconventional means like serve-and-volley to disrupt his opponent’s rhythm and mix things up.
Lorenzi has a great heart for the game and he can force himself to fight for every point. With his inconsistent attacking game and a talent for defense, he was forced to play that way and did everything he could to have a great career. Unable to blow his opponents off the court, Lorenzi had to find a different way to play. He did, and developed himself a wonderful arsenal of “soft” tennis skills like anticipation, shot selection, and the overall understanding of the game.
What’s next for Paolo Lorenzi?
As stated before, Lorenzi’s game is well-suited to clay. Of his 36 ATP Challenger Tour finals, only five came on a different surface. However, when it comes to the Grand Slams, his best run came at the US Open. Two years ago, he managed to overcome Joao Sousa, Gilles Muller, and Thomas Fabbiano, losing to the eventual runner-up Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.
Repeating that success won’t be easy. To have any chance against Stan Wawrinka, the Italian would have to be at his counterpunching best ,and you can’t play defense when your legs don’t cooperate. Two matches and over nine hours on court will have to take its toll at some point. It was fun while it lasted, but the 37-year-old’s run is coming to an end.
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