Luca Nardi is a name you’ll need to remember.
Nardi out to find fast lane to success
Italian teenager moves into final round of Roland-Garros qualifying
“For sure it’s motivating to see players like this do so well, so young and I hope that I can join them at the top one day,” says the 18-year-old Nardi.
Nardi, close friend of countryman Lorenzo Musetti, continues to make a name for himself after nullifying the threat of Britain's Paul Jubb 6-4, 6-1 en route to the final round of Roland-Garros qualifying on Wednesday.
“I’m so happy, because today was a tough match. I know him because I lost to him last year, but I knew what I had to do,” stated the youngster, building off two Challenger titles in 2022.
“Yeah it feels good because I was a junior here, to be here to play my first Grand Slam as a pro is fantastic. Hopefully I can make the main draw here for many years to come, it would mean everything.”
Nardi hails from Pesaro, the city on Italy's east coast which is known for raising Moto GP icon Valentino Rossi. The 18-year-old “always” rides a Yamaha motorbike in his spare time and is racing up the rankings.
Currently the only player under the age of 19 in the top 200, Nardi is determined to not get distracted by outside noise.
“It feels good but I try not to look at these statistics,” maintained the world No.200. “Yes, I’m happy with this, if people ask I’m happy to talk about it, but I don’t want to lose focus.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Zsombor Piros edged Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4 to set up a shootout with Portuguese 20th seed Nuno Borges.
The lively world No.189 knows exactly what he wants should he clinch a main-draw ticket.
“I have two favourites to play. I know I don’t have much of a chance, but it would be a great experience to play with Rafa (Nadal), that’s everyone’s goal I think, and also (Stefanos) Tsitsipas,” declared the Hungarian.
“I like their games a lot and I like to play against one-handed (backhand) guys. I just want to know what it feels like to take on players like this. Court Philippe-Chatrier against them would be the dream.”
Back in 2017, Piros was a junior Grand Slam champion, triumphing in the Australian Open singles and Roland-Garros doubles. Now, the 22-year-old is intent on putting on a show, and is getting “goosebumps” just thinking about a major main draw debut.
“All my previous coaches have said this, that I suit the bigger tournaments with the crowds. It puts me in a cage, in a flow, that I can make shots that I don’t even try to practice in a session,” mused Piros, after backing up his opening qualifying victory over Sam Querrey.
“I sometimes surprise myself with shots like this in tough moments, so I’m very happy with that mental strength. It doesn’t work all the time but wins like this make me feel I belong here.”
Meanwhile, former junior world No.1 Tseng Chun-Hsin dismissed his compatriot Jason Jung 7-5, 6-4 to advance in Paris, closing in on a maiden main draw appearance.
The Chinese Taipei talent has built up his Grand Slam credentials by hitting with the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem during the road to Roland-Garros.
“On the court they shared their experiences and you get used to how these big champions play like. You realise what you can improve more on your game. It’s given me a lot of motivation and I grew a lot as a player with them,” said the 20-year-old, who exchanged “butts-up” punishments with Wawrinka during entertaining sessions.
“It’s always funny to hit with him, he makes the practice way more interesting.”
In 2018, Tseng lifted the Roland-Garros boys’ title and feels he has constantly developed since his trophy-laden junior days by returning to his childhood coach Benjamin Ebrahimzadeh.
“I think my game is more aggressive than before, I’m definitely faster too,” claimed the world No.110. “I have more variety now, so I can use different tactics better and I’ve grown a lot mentally than before; I’m fighting and competing much harder than before.”
The first winner of the day was Austrian Sebastian Ofner, who posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Aleksandar Vukic, whilst Pedro Sousa also enjoyed a straight-sets move past Lorenzo Giustino to book an encounter with Australian Jason Kubler.
Bulgaria’s Dimitar Kuzmanov ended the hopes of Italian prodigy Flavio Cobolli 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, while home fans celebrated Sean Cuenin's passage to the final round of qualifying, courtesy of a 7-6(6), 6-4 result versus Ramkumar Ramanathan.