At four-all in the second set the lights went out during the Italian Open which could have disrupted the concentration of Italy’s emerging starlet, the 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, who was on his way to eliminating another top player from the Rome Masters listings.
I am really happy right now. I felt really good on my forehand from the beginning. I could play more offensively on return, than against Stan Lorenzo Musetti
Fortunately the blackout didn’t last long and Kei Nishikori accepted the teenager was the better player on the day as he succumbed to a 6-3 6-4 defeat after an hour and 42-minutes of play.
Musetti’s win followed his first round victory over Stan Wawrinka and sees him as a qualifier (having been given a wild card into the qualifying competition!) reach the last 16 of a Masters 1000 event at only his second appearance on a tour level match.
The youngster fended off five break points and captured Nishikori’s serve in each set to secure his best run as a professional, and may well continue it as he faces another qualifier, Dominic Koepfer of Germany, a 6-2 6-4 winner over the fifth seeded Gael Monfils, for place in the quarter-finals.
“It was an incredible match,” said the 249th-ranked Musetti. “I think I played really smart, as he was playing close to the baseline. It was different to Wawrinka, they are great champions. I am really happy right now. I felt really good on my forehand from the beginning. I could play more offensively on return, than against Stan.
“I always used to be a warrior, a fighter, but I had a lot of ups and downs during the past year,” Musetti, who won the Australian Open in 2019 as a junior before turning professional the same year, revealed.
“This month I tried to keep calm and stay positive on court, and I think it’s my best improvement in the past few weeks. Here in Rome, I’m feeling really well,” he continued.
“Even today, I think I won mentally, because I played well on the tough points. I think the key was this, the important points. Kei is a fantastic player. I tried to take my chances tonight. I am really proud of myself, of what I did.”
Nishikori is still not completely match fit though that shouldn’t decry Musetti’s efforts. The Japanese player has been out of the sport for just over a year recovering from injury and is only just playing his first event and was satisfied at reaching the second round. He was also impressed by his opponent.
“He’s a good player, I think, especially on clay,” Nishikori said.
“I don’t know how he’s going to play on hard (courts), but for sure he’s going to have a lot of power on clay, good backhand too, good serve. He can come in well. He can do pretty much everything. That’s, I think, a big weapon for him.”
But while Musetti is having a good run, so has his next opponent Koepfer who required just 91-minutes to down the seeded Monfils, the French master entertainer.
Joining Monfils from the seeded ranks were Milos Raoniac, Andrey Rublev and Italy’s favourite, Fabio Fognini.
Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic took care of the 13th seed Raonic 7-6(6) 4-6 6-2 in two hours and 32-minutes, securing breaks in games four and eight in the decider to set up a meting with the King of Clay, the second-seed, Rafa Nadal.
France’s Ugo Humbert eventually dispatched, after a grinding two sets, the 7th-seed Fognini, playing his first match since undergoing surgery in both his ankles during the shutdown, 7-5 7-6(11).
Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, Dan Evan’s conqueror, ousted ninth seed Rublev 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2.