The future of Italian tennis was on full display on Tuesday in Todi, as the ATP Challenger Tour continued its return to competition.
Temperature checks and social distancing have become the norm at the 12th edition of the Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi, with players embracing the safety measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the lines, the action is heating up on the Italian clay and there were certainly no shortage of storylines on Day 2. Teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Giulio Zeppieri captured all the attention on home soil, with the budding #NextGenATP stars both earning straight-set victories to kick off their campaigns under bright skies.
Musetti opened the night session with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over countryman Francesco Forti, while Zeppieri ousted Argentine veteran Renzo Olivo 6-2, 7-6(4) to conclude Tuesday’s play. The 18-year-old Musetti is looking to build on a steady freshman season in 2019 that saw him reach his first semi-final in Milan and crack the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. The 18-year-old Zeppieri is hoping to do the same after reaching a semi-final of his own in nearby Parma, and appearing at the Next Gen ATP Finals as the alternate.
“It’s good to get through this first match after so many months without playing,” said Musetti after Tuesday’s victory. “There was a lot of wind in the beginning of the match, but I think I served quite well. I’m happy to win this in straight sets. For me, doing well here is important because I want to improve my ranking and play Roland Garros qualifying next month.”
The teens have tall tasks ahead of them, if they want to extend their stays in Todi. Musetti is set to face seventh seed Yannick Hanfmann and Zeppieri battles fifth seed Facundo Bagnis on Thursday.
The ATP Challenger Tour’s return to the Umbria region of Italy is a welcome sight for the home contingent, with second seed and former World No. 16 Marco Cecchinato joining his teenage countrymen in the winners’ circle on Tuesday. Cecchinato overcame Andrea Collarini 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 and will next face another Argentine, Juan Pablo Ficovich, on Thursday. Ficovich opened his campaign with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 comeback victory over Marco Trungelliti.
Top seed Roberto Carballes Baena also secured an opening win on Tuesday, routing Jurij Rodionov 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 13 minutes. The Spaniard’s serve was clicking throughout the encounter, winning 77 per cent of points on his first delivery.
“I’m very happy after more than five months without playing,” said Carballes Baena. “I was solid today and I’m happy for this first win. I’ve been training for a long time and that’s not normal for us without competing in important matches. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week here.”
The only player in the Top 100 in the draw, World No. 99 Carballes Baena will next face countryman Bernabe Zapata Miralles for a spot in the quarter-finals.