Musetti finally makes a Grand Slam quarter-final | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Musetti finally makes a Grand Slam quarter-final

ByRutvick MehtaRutvick Mehta
Jul 08, 2024 11:40 PM IST

The 22-year-old, sporting his trademark inverted cap, marched ahead into his first Grand Slam QF after beating Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard

Mumbai: It took a while coming, and when it did, Lorenzo Musetti slumped to the grass and teared up. Until Monday, the Italian — one of the few still keeping the one-handed backhand alive — was looked upon as a hugely talented youngster, yet without the standout result on tennis’ bigger stages to back that notion. Until Monday, his biggest claim to fame was taking 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to five sets in two separate Slams (which, in itself, should be a good measure of his promise).

Italy's Lorenzo Musetti returns the ball to France's Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. (AFP)
Italy's Lorenzo Musetti returns the ball to France's Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. (AFP)

That can be now scratched. Musetti is a Grand Slam quarter-finalist.

The 22-year-old, sporting his trademark inverted cap, marched ahead into the Wimbledon last eight after beating Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, a 6-foot-8 Frenchman who’d come into the match firing a tournament high 105 aces, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. It is Musetti’s first quarter-final Slam appearance in 14 consecutive attempts, dating back to the 2021 French Open in which he was two sets to love up against Djokovic in the fourth round.

That’s when the larger tennis world stood up and took notice of the latest Italian kid on the block. This year on those lawns of the All England Club, Musetti stood up to finally deliver a deep run at a major. One that will see him join men’s world No. 1 Jannik Sinner, as well as women’s No. 7 and French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini, in the quarter-finals of this Wimbledon. It is the first time three Italians have made it that far in the same Slam.

“It’s tough for me to get emotional but I think today I will,” Musetti said on court. “I’ve been dreaming about this moment…” the world No. 25 added before choking up again.

Awaiting him in the quarters will be American Taylor Fritz, who rallied from two sets down to beat fourth seed Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-3. Zverev’s struggles on grass continue -- he had never made it past the fourth round -- and Fritz, the ATP Eastbourne champion with solid grass court form, will be a stiff challenge for Musetti.

That Musetti would even make it this far at Wimbledon seemed a long shot at the start of the year. This season, in a way, mirrors Musetti’s career so far — an inconsistent run of form (his win-loss record was 18-17 coming into the Wimbledon), a five-setter with Djokovic at Roland Garros (this year he lost leading by two sets to one), a sudden eye-catching burst of results.

Part of Italy’s Davis Cup-winning squad last year who however featured (and lost) in just one singles match in the semi-finals, Musetti had a tottering start to the season. A second-round exit at the Australian Open was followed by three successive opening round defeats in ATP events in February. In March, he became a father. He then went back down to the second-tier Challenger tour, unusual for a top-30 player, to find some momentum. Which he did. He made two Challenger finals on clay, reached the semi-finals of the ATP Stuttgart on grass and went one better at Queen’s, losing to Tommy Paul in the final but building form and belief coming into this Wimbledon.

“It’s been quite a year, really challenging with a lot of new experiences with the pregnancy of my girlfriend, and becoming a father. A lot of things happened and changed,” Musetti said. “I needed more time to find a balance on everything.”

It had taken some time for him before too. That 2021 French Open match against eventual champion Djokovic on his Slam main draw debut — he flew to a two-set lead until his body folded up — got everyone talking about the stylish Italian teen with the retro one-handed backhand. This was before the world had got hooked to the Sinner show. That tournament was followed by five straight first-round exits, including at the Tokyo Olympics. He won both his career’s ATP titles the following year and broke into the top 50 before another unflattering 2023 (32-29 win-loss record).

Musetti said the week in Paris and match with Djokovic three years ago changed his life, and he felt the pressure to manage all the things that come with it.

“I had some issues outside the tennis court that didn’t help,” Musetti told this paper during the 2022 ATP Maharashtra Open in Pune “But I’m young, I need to do mistakes, I need to fall down and then rise up. Because I think it’s the better way to understand the mistakes.”

Emotional Svitolina wins

Meanwhile, an emotional Elina Svitolina of Ukraine made the quarter-finals on what she said was a “difficult day for Ukranian people” after a Russian airstrike on a children’s hospital in Kyiv. Svitolina broke down after beating China’s Wang Xinyu 6-2, 6-1. She will next take on Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina, who advanced after Anna Kalinskaya retired at 6-3, 3-0.

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