Before Diego Schwartzman's upset win over Rafael Nadal, the biggest talking point at the Rome Masters was Lorenzo Musetti. The 18-year-old Italian came through the qualifiers and defeated three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka and former top 5 player Kei Nishikori to reach the last 16, where he was beaten by Dominik Koepfer.
Musetti's win over Stan Wawrinka made him the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP match. He is also now the youngest player to reach the last 16 at a Masters Series claycourt event since Rafael Nadal himself at Hamburg 2003.
For hardcore tennis fans, Musetti is no new discovery. He is a former junior World No. 1 and he won the Australian Open boys singles title in 2019. He and countryman Jannik Sinner have in fact been tipped for great things since a while now.
Some youngsters have trouble dealing with the plaudits and expectations from fans, experts and legends, as well as the attention that comes with their first big wins on the tour. But Musetti, who received high praise from none other than Rafael Nadal himself, seems to be managing pretty well for now.
"All this attention does not make me go crazy, on the contrary they motivate me" - Musetti on getting recognition from Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
Musetti recently had the chance to practice with claycourt legend Rafael Nadal, and said that the praise from the 12-time Roland Garros champion made him very happy.
"The compliments of Rafael Nadal, who was very humble in giving them, made me very happy," Musetti said.
The Italian had also trained with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic earlier this year, and the Serb was in the stands for Musetti's match against Koepfer - presumably to scout his potential quarterfinal opponent.
"While with Djokovic, I had already had the opportunity to train with him in Melbourne and get to know his team. Today, I was pleased to have him in the stands even if he didn't see a good match. All this attention does not make me go crazy, on the contrary they motivate me," Musetti added.
Musetti, who had to deal with a shoulder problem in Rome towards the end of his run there, is playing the ATP Challenger in Forli this week (his ranking was not high enough to get him entry into the qualifying draw at Roland Garros). He also plans to play the ATP Challenger in Parma and the ATP event in Sardina in the coming weeks.
The 18-year-old was ranked No. 249 entering the Rome event, and is projected to move to around No. 180 in the updated rankings.