Musetti at the ready as Alcaraz looms

 - Chris Oddo

Italian is more mature and confident this time around

Lorenzo Musetti, third round, Roland-Garros 2023© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

The year? 2021... The mood? Hopeful. 

Lorenzo Musetti, a promising Italian with a museum-worthy backhand, was barely 19 and making his Grand Slam main draw debut in Paris when he suddenly found himself up two sets to love on Novak Djokovic in the round of 16. 

We know what happened next. Djokovic caught the wind in his sails while the Italian wilted, eventually retiring due to injury late in the fifth set. 

A heartbreaking loss for the Italian, but that which does not kill us… 

Two years later, Musetti is back in the saddle in Paris, and he believes everything that has happened to him has happened for a reason.

“If you ask me if I feel different from two years ago, I say yes,” a cheery Musetti told reporters on Saturday in Paris after completing a near flawless week one that saw him drop a mere 22 games.

“I see myself more mature, with more experience, with many, many more matches – wins and losses that helped me to face [challenges in] life and as a player in a certain way and in a better way.” 

The world No.18 will need that self-confidence for his next big challenge on the red clay of Paris, as top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz, awaits. The pair’s blockbuster round of 16 clash on Sunday in Paris will be a rematch of last summer’s Hamburg final, which was won by Musetti in dramatic fashion, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4. 

Musetti let five championship points slip in the middle set of that contest but found the courage to rebound in a deciding set, earning his first ATP title. 

It was a lesson lived on many levels for the talented Italian.

“I think there are a lot of matches that teach me a lot,” he said last year at the US Open. “The final in Hamburg was one of the biggest wins in my career but it was one of the toughest I ever played.” 

His coach agrees, but believes the second edition of Alcaraz v Musetti will be different because both talents are progressing so rapidly.

“The experience of last year surely was positive but this year both him and Alcaraz are two different players so it will be a different story,” Musetti’s longtime coach Simone Tartarini told

Tartarini doesn’t want to blow the victory over Alcaraz out of proportion, but he does believe that it provided valuable intel that can be helpful in devising ways to stop the hard-charging top seed. 

“Last year’s match can help to have some points to fix on, from a tactical aspect,” he added. 

Lorenzo Musetti, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Carlitos 'started a new generation'

Musetti may hold the 1-0 lifetime edge over the world No.1 but he is quick to recognise the fact that Alcaraz is the standard bearer for the next generation of men’s tennis. 

“I see that he started a new generation,” Musetti said on Saturday. “He's the first Grand Slam title after the big three, so I think it's sort of an inspiration for us; for me, Holger [Rune], Jannik [Sinner], and whoever is behind him, trying to push him away and trying to get closer.” 

When Musetti first burst onto the ATP Tour with a run to the round of 16 in Rome in 2020, fans and pundits alike were drawn to his imaginative game style and his stylish strokes. The Roman was a human highlight reel from day one, but lacked the experience – and the physicality – to contend with the tour’s top talents. 

Lorenzo Musetti, third round, Roland-Garros 2023© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Two years after his Paris debut, Musetti is demonstrating that his formative years were far from a fluke. 

“He is a more mature player compared to two years ago so he is also more confident in himself and his tennis, in both tactical and technical aspects,” Tartarini says. 

“I would definitely say I'm sure more prepared than I was with Nole [Djokovic], but that doesn't mean that I go on court and I win easy,” Musetti concluded. “That's never gonna happen. 

“But I feel that I can better manage all the stuff around my next match.”