It was a tumultuous Thursday in Monte Carlo, with the third and fourth seeds, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, losing unexpectedly. In most viewers' eyes, the draw has boiled down to Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, with a hodgepodge of names in between.
Djokovic and Nadal could certainly make their way to the final, as they are expected to do. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the players who have managed to survive the tournament's first three rounds, even if they weren't expected to (Djokovic and Nadal are the only two Top 8 seeds remaining in the quarterfinal round). Daniil Medvedev, who beat Stefano Tsitsipas on Thursday and is the ATP match-win leader thus far, should give Djokovic a stern test. Borna Coric, a battle-tested youth, and Fabio Fognini, a battle-tested veteran, are more than capable of owning the court on any given day.
Then there's Lorenzo Sonego, who even among the unseeded players left in Monte Carlo is relatively unknown. The Italian is currently just inside the Top 100, at No. 96, and successfully qualified for the main draw—the fourth time he's done so at an ATP tournament this year. Most recently, Sonego won four matches in Marrakech before falling in the quarterfinal round.
You can now replace Marrakech with Monte Carlo, as the 23-year-old has reached the elite eight at a much more significant event. Buoyed by supportive crowds (Italy is a short drive from Monaco), the Turin native has toppled countryman Andreas Seppi, eighth-seeded Karen Khachanov and, on Thursday, Cameron Norrie, 6-2, 7-5. He's the first Monte Carlo qualifier to reach the quarterfinals since 2011.
With his run, Sonego has ensured that he'll rise to No. 65 in the world rankings.
"Best moment of my life," Sonego told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj after today's win. "Seppi, Khachanov—good feeling here. I love the conditions and the people are amazing."
Playing with house money—appropriate with the casino nearby—Sonego has an unlikely opportunity to go even further at a Masters 1000 event. For he'll play another unseeded player, Dusan Lajovic, on Friday. Lajovic's surprisingly routine win over Thiem didn't just open the door for Nadal, who could have faced Thiem in the semifinals, but it gave Sonego a less-daunting challenge in what is the apex of his young tennis career.
"I serve so good now, I receive better, I have confidence in the backhand," summed up Sonego, "and the next round, we'll see."