Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Musetti, 18, stuns Stan in first round of Italian Open

Stan Wawrinka, 35, had two operations
on his left knee in August 2017. File
photo by Paul Bauman 
   Lorenzo Musetti's first tour-level victory was a big one.
   The 18-year-old Italian qualifier stunned 10th-seeded Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, 6-0, 7-6 (2) today in the opening round of the Italian Open in Rome.
   "When I was young, I used to come see champions like Rafa, Federer, Wawrinka," the 249th-ranked Musetti told reporters. " ... I think it's a dream that comes true. I'm still not believing what I did tonight."
   Musetti had played only one tour-level match, losing to then-No. 14 Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-4 in the first round at Dubai in February as a qualifier.
   Musetti, formerly ranked No. 1 in the juniors, won the 2019 Australian Open boys singles title by edging American Emilio Nava 14-12 in a third-set tiebreaker.
   Unlike Italy's eight top-100 men, Musetti has a one-handed backhand.
   "This kid's backhand is incredible!" commentator and former world No. 1 Jim Courier crowed during Tennis Channel's broadcast.
   Wawrinka, 35, won a Challenger in Prague last month. He reached the Italian Open final in 2008 (losing to Novak Djokovic) and semifinals in 2015 and underwent two operations on his left knee in August 2017.
   Musetti is scheduled to face Kei Nishikori, 30, of Japan on Thursday. Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up to Marin Cilic, defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Monday for his first win since Flushing Meadows in 2019. He had right elbow surgery last October.
   Another qualifier, Pedro Martinez of Spain, beat Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native, 6-3, 7-6 (3) today. Querrey, the Italian Open doubles champion in 2011 and runner-up in 2010 with John Isner, is 0-3 since advancing to the third round of the Australian Open in January.
   In a women's matchup of Grand Slam singles champions, ninth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain outplayed Sloane Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, 6-3, 6-3. 
   Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017. Stephens captured the U.S. Open in 2017 and reached the Roland Garros final in 2018, losing to Simona Halep.
   Muguruza will play 16-year-old U.S. sensation Coco Gauff, who defeated Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-3. Gauff rebounded from two consecutive opening-round losses in New York, including the U.S. Open, to win her first tour-level main-draw match on clay. 
   Jabeur, the 2011 French Open girls singles champion, reached her first Grand Slam women's quarterfinal in the Australian Open in January.
   Wawrinka wasn't the only three-time Grand Slam singles champ who lost in the first round. Angelique Kerber, seeded 15th, fell to Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-1 in 68 minutes. 
   Siniakova, formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, ended a five-match losing streak at the WTA main-draw level dating to Dubai in February and defeated Kerber, the champion of the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, for the first time in four career meetings.
   Clay is Kerber's worst surface, which is odd because defense is her biggest strength. She has won every Grand Slam tournament except the French Open, in which she is a two-time quarterfinalist.

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