Some players are finding the transition from the American hardcourts to European clay difficult, even those players who have grown up on the crushed red brick surface, like Guido Pella of Argentina.
I'm going to enjoy the victory before I start thinking about my match against Nishikori Lorenzo Musetti
He had no answer to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, the 12th seed and last week’s quarter-finalist at Flushing Meadows, who shrugged off jet lag to beat the Argentine clay court expert 6-2 6-3, firing seven aces and 23 winners past him for his 35th Masters 1000 victory.
In turn Pella struck a measly four winners and made 28 unforced errors and never looked to be in contention in the 85-minute match.
Another player who was expected to make an impact in Rome, was Alex de Minaur, the young Aussie who also made the last eight at the US Open but was eventually knocked out by Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, a qualifier, who fought back with great spirit from a set down to claim a second round spot 3-6 6-3 7-6(5) after two-hours and 33-minutes.
But it was another qualifier, Lorenzo Musetti who can claim to have captured the biggest scalp of the day when he beat the three-time Grand Sam champion Stan Wawrinka, 6-0 7-6(2)
The Swiss star and former French Open champion, hadn’t travelled to the US preferring to stay in Europe because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as had Rafa Nadal who is scheduled to play on Wednesday. His warm-up after a six-month hiatus was a Challenger tournament on clay in Prague.
On this occasion Wawrinka was caught cold by the young Italian, at 18 the youngest player in the draw, who was delighted to secure his first professional win on what was only his second match on the ATP Tour after making the main draw by winning through three rounds in qualifying.
The 35-year-old Wawrinka made a string of errors as he lost the first eight games before he finally got a foothold in the first-round match.
Musetti though held his nerve in the second to hold on and claim the victory by dominating the second set tiebreak.
“I have seen him play on television and I know he is a very tough player,” said Musetti, who will next meet Kei Nishikori in round two.
“I’m going to enjoy the victory before I start thinking about my match against Nishikori.”
Musetti’s coach, Simone Tartarini had predicted before the match that his protégé was on an “impossible mission” but after the match, added: “But Lorenzo likes this kind of situation, so he’s very motivated!”
Ninth seed Rublev, making his debut at the Foro Italico, beat qualifier Facundo Bagnis 6-4 6-4 over 98-minutes to book his second-round spot where he will face Hubert Hurkacz who on Monday, took out the British number one Dan Evans 6-3 3-6 7-5.
For Rublev, who lost out to his Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals of last week’s US Open, it was his 20th win of the season
Also through is John Millman who prevailed against Joao Sousa 7-5 7-6(2) in two hours and four minutes, taking the opener with a break in game 12 and coming back from 5-4 down in the second to seal it in the tie break.
Britain’s number two, Kyle Edmund was also in action but couldn’t quite get the better of another qualifier from Italy, Marco Cecchinto, a French Open semi-finalist in 2018, despite gaining the upper hand by claiming the first set. The Italian world number 113, however, managed to turn the tables in a very tight second set and then ran away with the match in the decider to go through 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2.