On Saturday, rising talent Lorenzo Musetti became the sixth player since 2000 to reach the round of 16 on his Major (main draw) debut. The 19-year-old is set to face none other than World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Court Philippe Chatrier.
One would assume the top-seeded Serbian would be ecstatic to meet an inexperienced youngster. Nevertheless, Musetti has already hinted in his young career he relishes big challenges. Rising to the occasion when lights shine the brightest is a skill, folks. And it isn’t taught at tennis academies.
Lorenzo Musetti at the 2021 French Open
Eye test cleared
Musetti has a natural feel for the game. He belongs in the short list of players who make tennis look effortless. Those whom club players have a love-hate relationship with. Pleasing to watch, impossible to emulate.
The Italian will be a great ambassador for our sport. Nowadays, not a lot of kids are willing to watch a full match. However, they are obsessed with the trick shots and flamboyant highlights that dominate the social media scene. Hence why Nick Kyrgios is arguably the most famous non-Big 3 player among the youngest generations of fans. There’s a massive difference between Kyrgios’ and Musetti’s approaches, though. The latter owns a wide array of tricks and he actually deploys them in situations where they are useful to win. In contract, the Aussie’s usage of special strokes is often superfluous.
For example, in his win over compatriot Marco Cecchinato, Musetti hit a pair of astonishing “Shot of the Tournament” candidates within a 20-minute span: a behind-the-back volley winner and a loopy version of the “Pablo Cuevas tweener.” Sensational stuff.
Underarm serves, behind-the-back volleys… 🤩
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 5, 2021
Modern men’s tennis is pivoting toward a serve-oriented game style. Don’t get me wrong, the serve is the most important shot in tennis for a reason, but seeing a versatile player like Musetti having instant success is a breath of fresh air.
Numbers don’t lie
In tennis, aesthetics cannot be the be-all and end-all when evaluating a player’s quality. Based on the numbers, Musetti has been ahead of the curve for years. Sure, junior success must be taken with a game of salt, but it takes a special prospect to win a major title and reach an additional final before his 17th birthday.
Another indication that we could be looking at a big match player is the fact Musetti owns a better winning percentage on the main ATP tour (63.6%) than on the Challenger circuit (57.3%), according to Tennis Abstract. The Carrara native has only won two ITF Futures and a single Challenger, yet he has been capable of outclassing Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, Diego Schwartzman, and David Goffin in his ultra brief ATP career.
Italian tennis on the rise
Should Lorenzo Musetti pull off the gargantuan upset against Djokovic, he’d become the youngest debutant to reach the French Open quarters since his countryman Jannik Sinner last year. In an interview with ATP Tour, 1998 Roland Garros champion Carlos Moya emphasized how different the two Italians are as players. It’s futile to speculate about who will be more accomplished in the future. They have the potential to be don’t lapidate me for this, please the Magic and Bird of the 2020s in tennis. It’s time to enjoy both of them on the court.
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