Lorenzo Musetti smokes out Taylor Fritz at Wimbledon

Lorenzo Musetti in Wimbledon 2024
Lorenzo Musetti in Wimbledon 2024 (PC: Wimbledon/X)

An Italian flavour at Wimbledon is a rarity, no? Not just in terms of the food menu but also the tennis menu. At Court No.1, on Wednesday evening, Lorenzo Musetti showed a big game and large heart to outslug American Taylor Fritz in a rocking five-setter at Wimbledon. The final scoreline read – 3-6, 7-6(7/5), 6-2, 3-6. 6-1

After Novak Djokovic had earned his place in the semi-final without even stepping on court, as his opponent Alex De Minaur had conceded the quarter-final due to a hip injury, the focus shifted to Musetti versus Fritz. Even Queen Camilla moved from Centre Court to Court No.1 to watch this big bash. To say that the intensity in the three-hour and 27-minute contest was high would be putting it mildly. For sheer twists and turns, the script in this quarter-final, spread over five sets, was as thrilling as a Hercule Poirot thriller.

This generation of tennis fans and youth may need to Google who Poirot was, but the way Musetti crafted his win on grass was delightful. He looked hunted in the first set, before inching his way back. The form book and official Wimbledon preview did not hype Musetti as a man who would be making waves in 2024. But then, from the French Open on clay to the grass-court swing, Musetti’s tennis has come like a whiff of fresh air. Rains have played havoc with Wimbledon this fortnight, but sunshine on Wednesday was welcome. And Musetti also shone, riding on the wave of performances he has produced in the two grass-court warm-up events before The Championship.

People have wished this edition of Wimbledon would become a Carlos Alcaraz versus Novak Djokovic final. But before that, Musetti is going to face the Serbian in the semi-final. The serve, so important on grass, was Musetti’s biggest strength. Tennis begins with the serve. There are some who crank up pace and rifle in the delivery from a high arc, make it zip off grass or some servers simply ensure the tennis ball is unplayable after it lands on the court. In the case of Musetti, he has a very potent serve, which makes for compelling viewing. The revelation, so to say, was his all-court game. Italians are supposed to slog from the baseline, slide on it and engage in long rallies.

No way. Musetti is different. He is crafting his own path the way one should on grass, where sorties to the net, chips, slices and more such variety flummoxed American Fritz, seeded higher in the gentleman singles draw. After four sets of tennis, which had given fans their money’s worth, Musetti exploded into brilliance in the fifth set. This was not normal tennis. This was like a Jaguar bursting to life on the motorways of outskirts London minus speed limits as he zipped to a 6-1 win in the decider. It was so fast, it left you stunned, as an Italian had produced tennis which one loves to see on grass.

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Lorenzo Musetti in action in Wimbledon 2024
Lorenzo Musetti in action in Wimbledon 2024 (PC: Wimbledon/X)

“I don’t think I’ve realised yet what I have done,” Musetti said in his on-court interview. “I was talking with my team about how to play on the big stage.  It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to walk out on this amazing stadium and it’s been an honour for me,” said Musetti.

“At the start of the match, Taylor was really leading the game, especially with his serve and I couldn’t return well. In the second set I had a big reaction after breaking at the start and that changed my mind, my attitude. That probably made the difference and hopefully on Friday I will have the same one,” said Musetti, as if making a prediction on what he will do next against Djokovic. But the best way Musetti explained his emotions was this quote: “For me it’s kind of a magic day. I have to say after the birth of my son, I will put in the second position today for my career.”

In the women’s section, Barbora Krejcikova mastered Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), the 13th seed in a quarter-final which brought back many old memories. This was, indeed, an emotional win for Barbora, from the Czech Republic. In terms of tennis, what stood out was Barbora being patient and maintaining her composure against a better player, in all ways. Krecjikova, who learnt the tricks of the trade long back from a former Czech champion, Jana Novotna, ensured she would do justice to her potential.

At her peak, Novotna had ruled Wimbledon in her own way, winning six titles on the most famous grass courts. Twenty six years after she won her last Wimbledon, to see Barbora Krecjikova emulate her idol in a small way, brought back old memories. Yes, this Czech girl, at 28, has just entered the semi-finals at an upset-ridden Wimbledon as far as the ladies’ draw goes. But if you look at history and from where Barbora began, her first tennis tutorials were in Brno, Czech Republic, under Novotna. That Barbora pleaded for guidance from the master serve-and-volley executioners is well known. So, to produce a big win makes fans emotional.

Barbora will next take on Elena Rybakina, but is not getting hassled about it. “I’m in the semi-finals. After I didn’t really have a good season between Australia and now. I was out. I was ill and injured, this and that. Always coming back and getting ill again. Coming back, getting ill. Going through very tough and difficult moments. I mean, like before Wimbledon, I only won two matches, so I’m really proud of myself for getting this far,” said Krejcikova.

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