Sinner leads Italian charge up world rankings

Milan (AFP) –


Jannik Sinner's run to the Miami Masters final has fuelled hopes of a new era for Italian men's tennis with, for the first time this week, 10 players ranked in the ATP Top 100.

No Italian had reached the final in the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in North America before Sinner, with their previous best Fabio Fognini's semi-final appearance in Miami back in 2017.

The 19-year-old Sinner became the second-youngest Miami finalist after Rafael Nadal in 2005, rising this week to 23rd in the world rankings, just the sixth teen since 2010 to break into the Top 30.

Sinner is the third highest ranked Italian after world number 10 Matteo Berrettini and 18th-ranked Fognini.

They are followed by Lorenzo Sonego (34), Stefano Travaglia (69), Salvatore Caruso (87), Lorenzo Musetti (90), Gianluca Mager (91), Marco Cecchinato (93) and Andreas Seppi (96).

After his break-through in 2019, winning the ATP Challenger title in Bergamo and the NextGen ATP finals in Milan, Sinner has claimed two titles and reached the Roland Garros quarter-final on his debut in 2020.

The highest an Italian man has ever been ranked was their only Grand Slam winner Adriano Panatta, who reached a career-high world number four in August 1976 after his French Open triumph.

Only France and Spain have more players in the top 100 with 11 each, but they have much older average age whereas five of the 'Azzurri' are under 26 years, and two are teenagers.

Eight of France's players are over 30 and six of Spain's compared to two of Italy's Fognini, 33, and Seppi, 37.

Musetti, just turned 19, is the youngest player in the ATP top 100, with Berettini 24, Sonego 25, Mager 26, Caruso and Cecchinato, both 28, and Travaglia, 29.

"It's beautiful, there are so many of us," said Sonego, who advanced to the quarter-finals of the ATP tournament in Cagliari on Thursday.

"We support each other and it's no coincidence that if someone has good results, then others follow too."

- 'Success beckons' -

This week Sinner is training for the Monte Carlo Masters, among five Italians competing along with defending champion Fognini, seeded Berrettini, Sonego and wild card recipient Musetti.

Fognini fell in the second round of the warm-up clay-court Andalucia Open in Marbella on Thursday, a tournament in which he was seeded second.

"There is a positive rivalry between all of us, the successes of one beckons that of another," Sonego told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We are all friends, very close, the competition is healthy.

"The Italian movement is continuing to rise and I'm sure other young players will also come from behind."

Italy can dream of Davis Cup victory, which they won once in 1976, he added.

"We hope to bring it to Italy as soon as possible.

"Now we are a nice young group and with the addition of Fognini, one of the greatest talents around, we are very competitive."

In Cagliari, Sonego swept past France's Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-1 to reach the last eight along with Musetti who ousted top seeded Briton Dan Evans 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (10/8).

"The top 50 seems far away, but in reality they are not that far," said Musetti, who saved four match points against 32nd-ranked Evans.

"I feel ready to play at this level. Let's see now if I can win my first ATP title here," added the player from Tuscany.

The last Italian to win an ATP title in Italy was Filippo Volandri in Palermo back in October 2006.