Musetti takes down second consecutive former top five player as seeds begin to fall

LORENZO Musetti has backed up his stunning upset of Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka by downing another former top five player in Kei Nishikori at the Rome Masters’ Round of 32. The Japanese 2014 US Open finalist was returning for his third match in 12 months, but the exciting Italian teenager continued his remarkable form with a 6-3 6-4 win over Nishikori.

The match lasted an hour and 42 minutes, with Musetti winning 78 per cent of his first serve points, and saving all five break point opportunities, whilst capitalising on two of six from his opponent. Those two breaks were enough to win through in straight sets and book a spot in the Round of 16. What is arguably the most impressive aspect is Musetti has been able to defeat a power hitter in Wawrinka, and now a counterpuncher in Nishikori, showing his versatility.

“It was an incredible match,” Musetti said post-match. “I think I played really smart, as he was playing close to the baseline. “It was different to Wawrinka, they are great champions. “I am really happy right now. “I felt really good on my forehand from the beginning. “I could play more offensively on return, than against Stan.”

Musetti becomes the first Italian teenager since 1989 to reach the last 16 of the Rome Masters. He could make further history if he can overcome German, Dominik Koepfer in his next match. Koepfer had a massive upset of his own, downing French fifth seed Gael Monfils, 6-2 6-4. Furthermore, Musetti became another part of history, with an Open era-tying record of four Italians are through to the Round of 16.

It was only the second time in history it had happened, with 1979 being the other occurrence, but Musetti joined fourth seed, Matteo Berrettini, and wildcards Jannik Sinner and Stefano Travaglia in the final 16.

Meanwhile in other results, three additional seeds to Monfils fell on a big day of upsets, as seventh seed Fabio Fognini, ninth seed Andrey Rublev and 11th seed Milos Raonic all bid Rome farewell. French youngster Ugo Humbert defeated Fognini – who could have made it a record amount of Italians through to the last 16 – in two tight sets 7-5 7-6, as Hubert Hurkacz took down the in-form Rublev 7-6 3-6 6-2, while Dusan Lajovic sent Raonic packing 7-6 4-6 6-2.

In more predictable results, eighth seed Diego Schwartzman continued his run with a 6-4 7-6 win over John Millman, while 12th seed Denis Shapovalov toppled Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, 6-4 6-4. In the other match on the day, Norwegian Casper Ruud followed through on his favourite surface with a win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego to stop a record amount of Italians making it through.

Shapovalov said it was tough backing up on clay after a Grand Slam on hard court, but the players were in a unique situation and all had the same circumstances.

“Of course it’s very tough,” Shapovalov said post-match. “Especially after the Grand Slam, your body just kind of naturally wants to relax. Going into a match here is definitely a little bit difficult, but I’m really happy with the way I have been able to maintain my level and maintain physically.”

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