Passaro Leads Trio Of Young Italians At Firenze Open

Francesco Passaro (photo: Giampiero Sposito/UniCredit Firenze Open)

FLORENCE/WASHINGTON, October 10, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

While Matteo Berrettini, Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego make up a formidable and decorated Italian trio as the ATP Tour returns to Florence, Italy this week for the first time since 1994, there’s another group of young Italians looking to make favorable impressions in front of their home fans this week at the UniCredit Firenze Open.

Francesco Passaro, Giulio Zeppieri and Francesco Maestrelli are an upstart threesome in the Florence draw of the ATP 250 indoor hard-court event who hope to make their mark at the Palazzo Wanny.

The highest-ranked of the three is 21-year-old Passaro, a possessor of a powerful serve and forehand, who has reached five finals on the ATP Challenger Tour and won once (at Trieste) – and is currently in ninth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan. The 123rd-ranked Passaro, who was born and resides in Perugia, will open against No. 58 David Goffin of Belgium in Tuesday evening’s featured match in just his second tour-level event.

Meanwhile, both Maestrelli and Zeppieri received wild cards into the main draw and were in action on the opening day of the main draw. First, the 186th-ranked Maestrelli from Pisa faced No. 75 J.J. Wolf of the United States in his ATP Tour main-draw debut and lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 – the victim of four breaks of his serve, but not before hitting nine aces, striking 20 winners and saving a match point during an impressive, nearly-two-hour battle on Campo Centrale. Wolf hit 16 winners to advance against fourth-seeded American Maxime Cressy.

“He’s a super-good, young player,” Wolf, 23, said during his on-court interview in praise of the 19-year-old Maestrelli, who won his first ATP Challenger Tour title earlier this season in Verona. “A lot of credit to him. I didn’t even think I came out that badly. He really made me play in that first game; he was serving huge. If you make a mistake, you are going to lose the match. I had to really lock it down.”

Later, the 170th-ranked Zeppieri from Rome took on 230th-ranked Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek and came up on the losing end of a 6-3, 6-2 score. It was Celikbilek’s first tour-level win of 2022 and he did it in back of eight aces and 22 winners coupled with three breaks of the left-handed Zeppieri’s serve. Although the 20-year-old Zeppieri finished with 14 winners, he was unable to break Celikbilek’s serve during the 73-minute match.

As for Berrettini, Musetti and Sonego, each comes in hoping to make a deep run in their home country. The World No. 16 Berrettini has compiled a 29-10 win-loss record for the season, which includes a pair of grass-court titles in Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club, and the Rome native currently is 15th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The 28th-ranked Musetti of Carrara won his first career title at Hamburg in July and the 20-year-old has already qualified for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. No. 51 Sonego of Turin was the champion at Metz two weeks ago.

Karatsev, Carballes Baena advance

No. 5 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia, the only seeded player in action on Monday, advanced by retirement over No. 54 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. The 39th-ranked Karatsev was ahead 6-3, 2-1 after 65 minutes when the first-round match ended due to Griekspoor being ill. Next, Karatsev will play either qualifier Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands or qualifier Mikael Ymer of Sweden on Wednesday.

Later, No. 80 Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, coming off a quarterfinal result at last week’s Parma Challenger after winning at Seville in early September, stepped up against Daniel Elahi Galan and eliminated the 71st-ranked Chilean 6-2, 6-1, in an hour and 13 minutes. Carballes Baena, who lost just one point on his first serve, hit 20 winners to just eight unforced errors. He converted three of 10 break-point chances and outpointed his opponent 63-39 to win for just the second time this season in a tour-level hard-court match. Next, the Spaniard will face World No. 16 Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the second round.

Around the Firenze Open

No. 1 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Great Britain’s Neal Skupski, who headed a very strong doubles field in search of their seventh title of the season, were upset in the opening round Monday afternoon. The Dutch/British duo (ranked third and fourth in the world respectively) lost to unseeded Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, both of France, 6-2, 6-4, after beginning the week ranked first in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Team Rankings.

Mahut and Roger-Vasselin saved the only break point they faced and broke their opponents three times in seven attempts. They outpointed Koolhof and Skupski 55-36.

Also, Italy’s unseeded Lorenzo Sonego and Andrea Vavassori advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan and Ben McLachlan of Japan.

Monday’s UniCredit Firenze Open results

Tuesday’s UniCredit Firenze Open order of play

By the numbers

Eight of the Top 20 players in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan are from Italy.

“Quotable …”

Top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, spent some off-court time together on Monday with his close friend and on-court foe, second seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy visiting the Piazzale Michalangelo, which overlooks Florence. It is Auger-Aliassime’s first visit to the capital city of Italy’s Tuscany region.

“It’s my first time in Florence and the view from up here is amazing. It’s a beautiful city and I’m very happy that the tournament decided to take us to this beautiful spot,” Auger-Aliassime said, quoted by the ATP Tour website.