June 15, 2021

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Roland-Garros: the new youth of Italian tennis

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What do you call a player capable of attempting and making a successful volley with his arm behind his back, while never losing a tie-break? A gifted? An unconscious? In any case, the young Lorenzo Musetti, 19 years and three months old, will leave this Roland-Garros 2021 legacy of the most beautiful point of the edition. And the promises of a young man capable of taking two sets from Novak Djokovic, like Hugo Gaston last year against Dominic Thiem. “For a while, he was the boss”, slipped the amazed Serbian after his match against the Italian.

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Unlike Toulousain Gaston, a star who already seems to fade, Lorenzo Musetti appears armed to shine for a long time. Just like his elder by a few months Jannik Sinner, who stood up to King Nadal for a set, Monday, June 7, in the round of 16, before giving in like last year (in quarter) to the boss of Roland Garros.

These two represent the tip of a young Italian guard who has been panicking the counters for a year, with two very different styles, inherited from the greatest: the powerful and direct game of Jannik Sinner is often compared to that of Novak Djokovic, while that the one-handed cuff and the shimmering style of Lorenzo Musetti would find inspiration from Roger Federer’s side.

No Grand Slam for an Italian since 1976

Long absent from the leading roles, orphan of Grand Slam for forty-five years (Adriano Panatta in 1976 at Roland Garros), Italian tennis has nine representatives in the Top 100. And sign of their rise in power, four of his in the 30 first places in the “Race”, the classification established only on the results recorded since the beginning of the calendar year. In fact, Italy is the exact opposite of France: the latter still has many representatives in the ATP ranking, which reflects the seniority of performances, but none in the top 40 of Race (1).

Asked by the French press about this difference before the last Masters 1000 in Rome, the president of the Italian Federation replied with a pirouette: “I’m not going to explain it to you, otherwise you will copy us in France. “ Cruel joke immediately corrected by a more in-depth analysis in the columns of the Figaro. “We are reaping the benefits of our policy to promote our discipline, which has become very popular. We have our own free tennis channel, which broadcasts tennis 24 hours a day, he explained. This made it possible to reach new audiences and brought young people back to the clubs. “

Popularity and free access to images… Here is a speech which should ring in the ears of the leaders of a French federation which does not manage to attract new talents, and which sold part of the images of Roland-Garros to Amazon. All this while maintaining a heavy network of national coaches who are no longer very authoritative on the courts. The most prominent, Gilles Cervara, Patrick Mouratoglou or Louis Borfiga, coach foreign players – they are respectively coach of Daniil Medvedev, Serena Williams and boss of Canadian tennis. Jannik Sinner is coached by Riccardo Piatti, former mentor of Novak Djokovic, and Milos Raonic, considered the best coach in the world.

Italy, European champion of the Challenger tournaments

To bring out a new generation, you also need intermediate tournaments that do not require too long trips to young shoots. And from this point of view, Italy has also gained the upper hand over France, formerly European champion of the Challenger (professional second division tournaments). On the strength of her Grand Slam tournament, she let this little crown slip away in Italy, which now has four more than it (17 against 13).

This year, French tennis recorded its worst performance at Roland Garros since 1968, not placing any player in the third round. The comparison is cruel, again, with Italy, which had five qualifiers at this stage of the competition. Starting with the “old” Fabio Fognini, 34, a whimsical and brilliant player, who can be compared to our Gaël Monfils. Except that he won a Masters 1000 in 2019 (Monte-Carlo), a victory that toppled the mountains on the other side of the Alps.

“Fabio was the trigger”, recently explained the 1.96 m slugger Matteo Berrettini who was to rise a few weeks later for his first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open 2019. A stage he still hopes to reach at the end of his quarter of Wednesday against Novak Djokovic.

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The Masters moved to Turin

Another sign of the renaissance of Italian tennis and its ability to convince local sponsors of the media power of the yellow ball, the Masters left London to settle from 2021 and at least until 2025 in Turin. From November 14 to 21, the Piedmont city will host the eight best players of the season at the Pala Alpitour, a venue that can accommodate 15,000 spectators. Turin is the first Italian city to receive the Masters since its creation in 1970.

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