Junior talent Nardi inspired by Italy's tennis renaissance

 - Alex Sharp

Teenager Luca Nardi is the latest young prospect from a nation entering another golden era in its tennis history

Luca Nardi, Roland Garros 2020, juniors third round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

There has been an Italian flavour to proceedings at Roland-Garros.

Due to the heroics of Jannik Sinner and qualifier Martina Trevisan, Italy had a player in the men’s and women’s quarter-finals here for just the second time in the Open Era.

It’s not just in Paris, players representing the red, white and green are popping up all over the place. The top 100 in men's tennis features eight Italian.

It’s a pretty exciting time to be an Italian rookie rising through the ranks.

Time to shine for Luca Nardi, who is in boys' singles third-round action on Wednesday.

“For sure for Italian players it is a golden period. It’s been great to see Sinner play so good. Now (Lorenzo) Musetti too. They are young like me, just one or two years older,” explained the 17-year-old from Pesaro, a city on Italy's east coast.

“This inspires me a lot. I don’t know if I can make their results as quickly, but I will give everything, my best.”

Nardi, with a pro ranking of No.916 and a junior ranking of 56, is close to teen sensation Musetti.

Musetti, the 2019 Australian Open boys' champion has catapulted into the limelight with victories over the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori at the Rome Masters, before lifting the Forli Challenger last month.

“I know Musetti very well, we went to school together. We’ve practised together so much over the years, I’m very proud of him," says Nardi.

In light of the success of his compatriots, Nardi is eager to carve out his own path to the top.

“I like to describe myself as a 'crazy one'. I love to play a lot of volleys, I play well from the baseline, but as soon as possible I like to close to the net. I don’t like to run too much,” he said with a smirk. “So I try to win the point as quick as possible.”

On Roland-Garros juniors debut, Nardi is the only one of five from his homeland to advance to the third round, booking an exciting clash with French charge Lilian Marmousez.

“Yeah I'm very happy. Finally I’m bringing my tennis to the Grand Slams. Last year I played the US Open and lost in the second round, same in Australian Open this year. At least I’m making progress at the this level,” claimed Nardi with a sense of relief in his voice.

The teenager Is doubly delighted to extend his stay in Paris to soak up what he can from observing the elite stars.

“For sure it’s an amazing experience. I can see what the big players are doing. I’m watching them practice, how they prepare for their matches, how hard they work. Just from watching I can learn so much,” added Nardi.

Luca Nardi, Roland Garros 2020, juniors first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

“I don’t have one stand-out favourite, one idol, I want to learn from them all, to put it on myself.

“I got to watch Rafa (Nadal), Zverev, many top players, Jannik Sinner. I have plenty of work to do!”

The Napoli fan plays football and is also a keen padel player in his spare time, but tennis has been THE past time since picking up a racquet aged seven.

His fledging junior career has been given an injection ever since he left home to be based at the Italian National Tennis Centre in Rome last year. 

From then Nardi has won his first ever professional title, the ITF Sharm El Sheikh M15 event in March. Furthermore, he’s begun competing on the Challenger tour level.

Luca Nardi, Roland Garros 2020, first round juniors© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

With one win in three Challenger events, Nardi has been provided with another stark realisation of the journey ahead up to the pro circuit.

“For sure it’s very tough because the level is much stronger. They hardly miss. I have to work so, so hard,” stated the Italian.

“But it’s about my game, I have to focus on myself at the moment, then maybe I can win a few matches and go from there.”

Back to Paris and he’s determined to make a run into the latter stages on his junior debut.

“It would be a special moment for me if I can make the last couple of rounds, in this year, of course it wasn’t a good year for anyone. I’ve trained a lot and it would mean a lot to me,” he says.