The rise of Italian tennis has been a major talking point in the tennis world in recent months, with Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini leading their country to the ATP Cup final and #NextGenATP stars Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti rapidly rising in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
But outside of Italy, Lorenzo Sonego has not been spoken about as often. On Thursday evening, the 26-year-old showed why he should be part of the conversation, upsetting fourth seed Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
“It’s amazing, an unbelievably emotional moment for me because I’m in Rome, in my Italy with fans for two sets,” Sonego said in his on-court interview. “I’m so happy for this victory, for this match. Thiem is with Nadal the best player on clay.”
Sonego entered the match 1-6 against Top 10 opponents, with his lone victory coming in straight sets last year against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Vienna. However, the home favourite looked full of belief at the Foro Italico, eliminating the reigning US Open champion after a marathon that lasted three hours and 24 minutes.
Thiem had won their only previous ATP Head2Head encounter 6-3, 7-6(6) two years ago in Kitzbuhel, and he served for the match in the third set in the last match of the evening inside Grand Stand Arena.
But Sonego is now playing some of the best tennis of his career, and he showed commendable grit to reach his second ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final. The two-time ATP Tour titlist made the last eight in Monte-Carlo two years ago.
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Thiem showed his champion’s mettle, producing stunning shotmaking to get through the second-set tie-break, just like he did against Marton Fucsovics in the second round. At times, the Austrian’s one-handed backhand up the line dominated the match.
But after a 22-minute delay to clear fans out of Grand Stand Arena due to curfew, Sonego came out firing in the third set to take a 2-0 lead.
“It’s not easy to play two sets with fans and one more set with no fans,” Sonego said. “But I had my team and they supported me always. I’m happy.”
Thiem, who reached the Rome semi-finals in 2017, remained solid to rally and earn a chance to serve for the quarter-finals at 5-4.
But Sonego did not go away. The Italian fought until the end and showed more consistency to set a clash against seventh seed Andrey Rublev. Entering the week, Sonego had just a 2-4 record in Rome. This was his third win of the week.