ATP Rome preview & pick: Kei Nishikori vs. Lorenzo Musetti

ATP Rome preview & pick: Kei Nishikori vs. Lorenzo Musetti

The former junior world No. 1 was brilliant in his victory over Stan Wawrinka, but how will he react now that the spotlight is shining bright?

It’s a shame there were no fans in Rome for 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti’s first career ATP victory over Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday night, because they would have been going nuts. Not only did he beat the 2015 French Open champion, he bageled Wawrinka in the first set. It was a dominant, comprehensive victory for a player whose ceiling appears to be sky high. 

Although it was certainly a newsworthy victory, many of Tennis Twitter’s hardcore fans were infuriated by the terminology used to describe the “local teenager.” They probably would have preferred Musetti to be called “2019 Junior Australian Open champion” or even perhaps “former junior world No. 1.”

“I think it's a dream that came true, and I'm still not believing what I did tonight,” Musetti said. “I just accept that and let's see what happens in the next days. I didn't expect this win, but I think I deserved it.”

Vegas certainly paid attention to Musetti’s performance, as the Italian is actually a slight favorite to defeat former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori. It makes sense, since this will be just Nishikori’s third singles match in over a year, and Musetti’s shotmaking on Tuesday was jaw-dropping.

Forehands don't get much better than this. 

Neither do backhands, for that matter. 

Wawrinka's power didn't bother the teen, who can inject plenty of pace on his own.

Not only can he hit huge and heavy, Musetti brings the classic Italian flare and finesse to the court. His forehand is nearly identical to Tommy Paul's, but it might be better—only time will tell. Musetti brings his elbow up early, relaxes his wrist, and throws his entire body weight into the shot. It's smooth, repeatable, and hit with plenty of margin.

Judging by his exhilarated post-match quotes, there is potential for a natural letdown. Musetti would surely benefit from a full stadium packed with national fans (who probably were not shocked by his first-round victory), but current No. 249 has more than enough game to trouble a rusty Nishikori. 

Fellow Italian teenager Jannik Sinner joined in on the praise. 

You never know how a player will react once the spotlight shines bright, but don’t be surprised if Musetti blows another established veteran off the court on Thursday. 

The Pick: Lorenzo Musetti