The 2017 US Open, on the ATP side, suffered from multiple top level withdrawals. First of all, Novak Djokovic, followed by Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori. That meant that only seven Top 10 players were still supposed to compete at the last Grand Slam of the season. As if this wasn’t enough, #2 seed Andy Murray withdrew, too, and in the end the number of Top 10 players officially entering the draw was six. Halfway through the third round, the number eventually lowered to three! And crazily enough, they are all in the top half of the draw – Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem. A surprising benefactor of this is Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi.
The bottom half indeed suffered from the loss of Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev. Hence, 2017 Us Open will greet a first time Slam finalist, and at least one maiden Grand Slam semifinalist, as Sam Querrey is the only player who has contesed one before – just a couple of months ago at Wimbledon. Among those remaining alive the tournament, I already dealt with Canadian Next Gen star Denis Shapovalov. Today, it’s worth talking about another unexpected player who reached the first fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time of his entire career, at the age of 36, with a ranking of #40: Paolo Lorenzi.
Lorenzi’s result is astonishing, mainly because of his previous performances at Grand Slams. He won his first main draw match just three years ago, at the 2014 US Open, in what was his fourteenth – yes, you read it correctly! – main draw appearance. After that, he managed to reach the second round in every other Grand Slam, twice at the Australian Open, and his best performance has to be found last year in New York, when he reached the third round.
The US Open are quite special for the Italians. No Italian tennis fan will ever forget 2015, when on the women’s side there has been an entirely Italian final. Flavia Pennetta, who won the title and called it a career during the trophy ceremony, battled against her friend Roberta Vinci, who ousted Serena Williams on her path to the Career Grand Slam in one of the most epic matches that ever took place on the Arthur Ashe. Moreover, in that same edition Fabio Fognini came back from two sets down and defeated Rafa Nadal, hyping Italian fans before surrendering to Feliciano Lopez in the following round.
The situation is thoroughly different two years after, in 2017. Flavia Pennetta, as previously mentioned, retired from professional tennis, and gave birth to a boy together with her husband Fabio Fognini. Roberta Vinci is living the sunset of her career, and surrendered in the first round to super in-form Sloane Stephens. Fognini lost his opening match – and his head, too, to be honest – to fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia, who fell to Viktor Troicki in the second round. And still, an all-Italian battle happened at the third round, with Paolo Lorenzi overcoming Thomas Fabbiano in three sets, reaching his first second week of a Grand Slam.
Unseeded, Paolo Lorenzi was lucky enough to be drawn in the part of the draw who suffered from Andy Murray’s withdrawal. He eased past Joao Sousa in the first round, before overcoming #19 seed Gilles Muller in four sets, earning his spotlight in the all Italian match up in the third round. According to the seeds, his 4th round opponent should have been German Alexander Zverev, who actually lost his second round match to Borna Coric, opening the field as if it wasn’t open enough! Coric was ousted in the following round by South African Kevin Anderson, hence he is going to be Lorenzi’s opponent, for a spot in the US Open quarterfinals.
The South African has reached the quarterfinals of this Slam before, back in 2015, and will definitely have more experience, being his 11th time in a Grand Slam second week. However, Lorenzi knows for sure that he’s facing a lifetime opportunity, both because his age and because of the opponent, so he will be ready to fight his heart out to continue his dream run. He’s such a hard worker, though he lived most of his career out of the spotlight, playing mostly Challengers. This is his opportunity to show up in big stages. Forza, Paolo!