In the first three editions of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan there has never been an Italian player qualified by right among the magnificent eight, while this year there are even two, testifying to the golden moment of our tennis. In addition to Jannik Sinner, ruler of the Race to Milan and now just over a hundred points from the top ten in the world ranking, he has also secured a place at the Allianz Cloud Lorenzo Musetti, which for certain goals still has to wait (because yes, it is only a matter of time) but he lived through an equally important season, with a handful of highlights.
They are the ones who took it from ATP number 129 in January to a best ranking of 57 (today he is in 67th position), they consecrated him among the best under-21s in the world with two years in advance and above all they served to show the public what he can do, or how he knows enchant with a mix of technique and class that inconvenient important comparisons. Not even twenty years old, the talent of Carrara is already one of those for which the public willingly pays the ticket, sure that in some way trust will be rewarded by the show and its innate ability to entertain, creating a connection with those sitting in the stands.
After an AC start to the season, with two finals lost at Challenger level, Musetti’s first big hit of 2021 arrived at the ATP 500 in Acapulco. In Mexico, the blue climbed from qualifying to the semifinal, beating his first top-10 in Diego Schwartzman and then also Tiafoe and Dimitrov, and reaffirming his ability to exalt himself when the atmosphere is very hot. Stefanos Tsitsipas stopped him, but thanks to those 200 points he crossed the finish line of the top-100 and then continued to rise, soon after arriving in the third round in Miami (in the second Masters 1000 of his life).
He did not shine between Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, but he got up again with the semifinal in Lyon and held good cartridges for Roland Garros, giving himself a fabulous debut in a Grand Slam tournament. One after another he took out Goffin, Nishioka and Cecchinato, and in the second round against Novak Djokovic on Philippe Chatrier he made it clear why he will become very strong. It was his first time on the Central in a Grand Slam, against the number one in the ranking and with a thousand other valid reasons to have it down instead Lorenzo fascinated the whole world by playing two space sets, both won at the tie-break, and starting to give the public a foretaste of a historic enterprise, unimaginable at just 19 years old.
It did not arrive, because as soon as Musetti showed half weakness Djokovic took advantage of it and the blue lost the compass, remaining in an amen without physical and mental energies, until retiring during the fifth set. But that defeat served him well, in spite of what we saw from then on.
Results in hand, from Roland Garros onwards his tennis has worked less, allowing him to bring home only a few games here and there. But more than winning now it is important to lay the foundations to win later, and in this sense certain defeats (see that of Paris) are very useful. In addition, the reasons for his period of lack of results are many, and of a different nature.
First the maturity, which prevented him from preparing properly a tournament that suits him like Wimbledon, then some personal problem that during the summer he was unable to always leave off the pitch, losing some of the spark needed to compete every week at high levels. But the gray moments are fully part of every player’s training, which is why there is no need to worry, especially now that – with the help of a sports psychologist – Lorenzo has found hunger and the desire to compete.
He’s back to playing his best tennis, and he deserved the call of coach Filippo Volandri to defend the colors of Italy in the Davis Cup Finals. Together with four giants of our tennis such as Berrettini, Sinner, Fognini and Sonego, he will be there too: another precious opportunity for his sporting growth.
But before thinking about the national team, Musetti’s priority is the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, where the Milan public awaits him and is ready to push him towards a great result. Italian spectators have always had a soft spot for spectacular players, those who, together with their effectiveness, do not give up even a pinch of spectacle, and for this very reason Musetti can turn the Allianz Cloud into a bedlam, just as Sinner did on the occasion of his 2019 triumph.
The Carrarese will be the favorite of the public and one of the special observers even outside Italy, and he has the means to make a great tournament. But even more to follow the example of players like Medvedev, Rublev, Tsitsipas and at least one other of the magnificent eight of 2021, able to move from the Next Gen Masters to the Nitto ATP Finals within two seasons at the most, and to leave immediately the sign. Succeeding on the Milan-Turin axis would be even tastier.