By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, June 7, 2021
In his Grand Slam debut, Lorenzo Musetti solidified his status as a major player.
The 19-year-old Italian showed all-court creativity building a two-set lead over Novak Djokovic today before the top-seeded Serbian delivered a higher gear and Musetti hit a physical wall.
World No. 1 Djokovic held a 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 lead when a battered Musetti pulled the plug due to onsetting cramps and a creaky lower back that restricted his movement. It was Djokovic’s fifth career comeback from a two-set deficit.
Still it was a coming of age tournament for the former junior world No. 1 just two and a half years after Musetti won the 2019 Australian Open boys’ championship.
Djokovic, who has practice with Musetti, says the Italian teenager owns all the assets to be an all-surface threat.
“You know, Musetti has definitely all the qualities in his tennis, in his game on clay particularly, but also other surfaces to be a top player,” Djokovic said. “I wish him all the best. He’s a nice guy. We know each other well now. We trained quite a bit, and now we played for the first time.
“Yeah, I really wish him all the best. I think if he keeps going in this way, he’s definitely on the right path to become a top player one day.”
The wild ride comes to a close with Musetti retiring due to his hip, but both players put on a stunning show today. 👏
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) June 7, 2021
Drawing confidence from a fantastic French Open fortnight that saw him out-duel compatriot Marco Cecchinato in the first five-setter of his young career, Musetti said this performance proves to himself he can play with the elite.
“Yeah, of course I came here to play my first Grand Slam in the main draw, and I made second week taking two sets against the No. 1 in the world,” Musetti said. “I think I took away a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions, but a lot of experience. Now I know how can I play, how far I am from the biggest in the tour, like Nole, so I know that if I play good I can stay at this level.
After pushing world No. 1 Djokovic to five sets, Musetti aims for major encore at Wimbledon, which he calls his favorite Grand Slam.
While Musetti grew up on clay, his quickness around the court, that wondrous one-handed backhand, his skill shifting spins on serve and his groundstrokes should all play well at SW19.
“Yeah, I will go home, rest a bit, and work for Wimbledon,” Musetti said. “I mean, Wimbledon for sure is my favorite slam. I played one time juniors one, and I was feeling really comfortable and I liked a lot the grass.
“I hope it’s gonna be the same. I know every tournament is not going to be like this one, so especially in the Grand Slam. So, yeah, I will try to do my best and try to reach the second week like here. But I’m not promising nothing. Let’s see, and then we will talk.”
Photo credit: Getty