The Rise of Italian Tennis: From Fognini to Sinner, A Story of Success

The Rise of Italian Tennis: From Fognini to Sinner, A Story of Success

It happened in April 2019. It was exactly five years ago when Fabio Fognini won in Monte Carlo after having eliminated Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, in the semifinals. It was not just any Masters 1000, but the first for Italy since the ATP circuit was created in 1990. The magnitude of the feat is better understood when dusting off the atlas of the Italian racket: the last to take the Principality had been Nicola Pietrangeli, half a century ago.

A few months after the victory of the wayward talent in Monte Carlo (6-3, 6-4 against Lajovic), a very young Matteo Berrettini He competed in the Masters Cup in London. It had been more than forty years since an Italian had entered the top eight of the ATP. In fact, the last had been Adriano Panatta (1975) and Corrado Barazzutti (1978), two of the heroes of the first Davis Cup that the Azzurra achieved, in 1976 in Santiago de Chile, against the hordes of Pinochet. “It’s not because he’s my husband, but Fabio’s triumph in the Master, with his consequent entry into the Top 10 – he then became the third Italian in the Open era – caused the iron wall to break. It had been a long time since that prodigious level had been reached. Before him, Andreas Seppi was in the top twenty… You know? When the young Italians who rule tennis today saw that, they surely let themselves be engulfed by that whirlwind of positive energy.” The words are from Flavia Pennetta, whose apex was reached in the final stretch of her career by winning the 2015 US Open, after winning to his compatriot Roberta Vinci. Italy was sweet with its rose petals.

“Today we are enjoying the boom, especially for men. It is the culmination of a journey that began to take shape with tennis players born in the eighties (Fabio Fognini), the nineties (Berrettini), and that is now enjoyed by the generation of 2000,” adds Flavia . In fact, in the legion Sinner – with Lorenzo Musetti, Flavio Cobolli or Luca Nardi (Djokovic’s new debut) – the most veteran is Lorenzo Sonego (1995). “Behind it there is a formidable work, also mental. Each one has their own team, and it should be noted that success leads to success. Always. We have improved in everything, also in self-esteem… Without forgetting the support of the Italian Federation.” The result is that today The Belpaese has nine tennis players among the top hundred ATP, something that has not happened since 1973 (ten, then): Sinner, Musetti, Matteo Arnaldi, Sonego, Cobolli, Luciano Darderi, Luca Nardi, Fognini and Berrettini, who returned after his success in Marrakech. The translation is that the pasta is already eating at the table with the United States and France.

The comparison does not hold up

The curious thing is that in the tennis lunch there is no longer room for a new Armada. Former tennis player Paolo Bertolucci underlines it well in La Gazzetta dello Sport:“The virtuous and abundant circle that Spain had then is now enjoyed in Italy” This is how his friend and companion of a thousand battles Adriano Panatta sees it, exclusively for Relevo. “This new wave of Italian tennis cannot be compared with ours from fifty years ago. Yes, with the Spanish wave of recent decades. Yes, when Saladeras won with Nadal, Roberto Bautista, Carreño, Granollers or Feliciano López.” It was precisely that Iberian squad, captained by Sergi Bruguera, the last one that raised the Davis. In 2019, a pivotal year where the doors began to turn and the winds changed direction, taking various subterfuges: if in Spain, after Nadal, Alcaraz arrived to avoid the desert; the transalpine belpaese began to knit a velvet tennis uniform that today fits very well in the cooperative. And if Iberian men’s tennis went back 35 years (only Alcaraz, Davidovich, Carballés, Munar and Roberto Bautista are in the running), the Italian has taken a leap into the future, forever canceling the doors of a desert through which Diego Nargiso walked , Renzo Furlan, Cristiano Caratti, Paolo Canè or Seppi himself, secondary characters who united two temple cities fifty years apart: Panatta-Janick Sinner. It was like going from Fellini to Sorrentino without anything to drink in between.

Jasmine Paolini and her sisters

Could be work, work ethics, consistency in decision making, economic investment or the stars, cyclical luck, as also highlighted by the legendary Panatta (he kissed Paris in 1976). Far from reality, there is nothing that affects the tennis bliss of a nation more than the epic victory, and above all the insistence, resistance and determination to achieve it again, to imitate her. Over and over again until it becomes automatism, a recurrence. In that exclusive corner, Flavia Pennetta does not forget about tyranny, the Spanish dynasty of the last decades with Corretja, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moyá, Robredo or David Ferrer as a prelude, already in the modern-contemporary history of the great Nadal, who Today he is looking for his place with few compatriot partners around him, beyond Carlitos.

The theme changes in women’s tennis, where Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, Conchita Martínez, Garbiñe Muguruza or even Carla Suárez are still waiting for heirs. The current picture is dark, although some green shoots sprout. Italian women’s tennis is also trying to escape from that tunnel. Is there a turning point missing, a la Fognini, for it to finish exploding? “Within the distance, we have had the explosion with Jasmine Paolini (her teacher is Renzo Furlan) and her victory in Dubai against Cirstea. Yes, it is true that it does not have the glamour, the importance of Monte Carlo, Miami or Indian Wells, but it is a feat, and has placed it 13th or 14th in the ranking. The key is to be consistent, that is, to prolong this triumph until it becomes a chain of work. Only then will it work as a sounding board for the others,” he argues. The others are: Martina Trevisan, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, Lucia Bronzetti… Even the veteran Camila Giorgi who, like Berrettini, longs to recover the best level of her career, perhaps with too many dunes.

The future

Tennis is the second sport in Italy, after football. We are in a positive whirlwind, but there is still something to improve: it is still sexist. In my time there was a golden generation, with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci (they achieved Wimbledon as a couple) or Francesca Schiavone, who won Roland Garros in 2010. Also my Grand Slam… They are successes that are in no way different to Sinner’s in Australia, which, however, has had much more relevance and media impact. Not to argue, but that’s how it is“, analyzes Pennetta before confessing the last secret ingredients to begin – or spread over time – the triumphal cycles, covered with cream. “Sacrifice is the key. I left home very young, then I lived in Barcelona for years. Sacrifice and perseverance, exactly. Selfless love for this sport. Strength to face fear, injuries, relapses, uncertainty. “That, and the growth of many Italian trainers and technicians, explain, perhaps, the success we are experiencing.”

Today in Italy there are two excellent coaches – Simone Vagnozzi (Sinner’s coach) and Giorgio Galimberti – who shine with their own light. Notable tennis players then, in Flavia’s words, have now known how to extrapolate their technique, their tactics, the vision of the game that they once had to put it at the service of the new talents that they mold in the academies. They have abandoned the ego, made the method more flexible to make it available to young people. “I don’t know if this has changed. In my time, each coach had his own vision, his method, and there was no uniformity, a base editorial line as existed in Spain. Maybe now, there is much more dialogue between the tennis player and the coach, and there may be another point to highlight, another incentive to grow and improve in everything for the coming years,” he asserts.

In the preview of the Indian Wells semifinal between Alcaraz and Sinner, the last captain of the Italian Davis -Filippo Volandri- gave an interview to La Gazzetta where he could not explain it better. “The Italian movement is powerful because its compartments are no longer stagnant. The players talk to each other. Ditto the coaches, and from this interrelation everyone is enriched.”

It is no coincidence that his 2023 Davis monument squad (Arnaldi, Sinner, Musetti, Sonego) was the most worthy heir of the troop that Nicola Pietrangeli led in Chile, withBarazzutti, Panatta, Bertolucci and Tonino Zugarelli to the head. Imposing themselves, facing a public opinion that encouraged them not to play so as not to legitimize the regime of a dictator, they ignored the criticism, neutralized it, overcame it with the silence of their famous rackets and a pair of red sneakers. It was the first match point achieved by a stubborn, tenacious and irreverent country. The first big collective bite of a movement that today is once again in a state of grace. A perfect storm returns… Curious that this time it began with the flight of an imperfect and volcanic bee, which broke rackets and starred in epic victories against Nadal or Andy Murray.

2024-04-20 03:24:32
#Fognini #broke #iron #wall #Relief


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