By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday May 19, 2021
It was a massive day for teenagers on the men’s side at Roland-Garros. Two—18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti—notched their first ever Roland-Garros victories, while another—19-year-old Jannik Sinner, saved a match point to earn a dramatic 6-1, 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 triumph.
Sinner, a lanky but lethal redhead from northern Italy, was the first to go through. He was under the gun early and often against Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Court Suzanne-Lenglen and the raucous crowd that supported the Frenchman, but Sinner managed to find a way to the finish line after saving a match point late in the fourth set, at 30-40.
It was a point that Herbert would love to have back for sure. The Frenchman badly shanked a backhand while the pair were engaged in a rally with neither player having the advantage.
Good battle today 🥵 pic.twitter.com/b6JHrBljLL
— Jannik Sinner (@janniksin) May 31, 2021
It marked the beginning of an ill-timed unravelling for Herbert, who double-faulted twice consecutively from 5-5, 15-all, and was broken on the next point when Sinner cracked a forehand winner.
After serving out set four, Sinner broke Herbert in the opening game of the fifth set and never looked back. He only made 11 of 25 first serves in the final set but he still only lost five points on serve and never faced a break point.
Jannik Sinner wins his first round match at #RG21 against Pierre-Hugues Herbert after saving a match point. He thinks he was a bit lucky, but he mainly owes this win to his head, which he believes it’s his best shot. pic.twitter.com/DTjB15mLrg
— Vanni Gibertini (@vgibertini) May 31, 2021
“I think today that was the key: trying to stay there mentally,” Sinner said. “I think at the end I can be proud of today.”
Sinner, a quarterfinalist last year in Paris as an 19-year-old, will face compatriot Gianluca Mager in the second round. Sinner became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 since Novak Djokovic in 2006 last year in Paris.
He’s not the only 19-year-old with the potential make noise in this draw. Musetti, making his Grand Slam main draw debut, sauntered past No.13 seed David Goffin in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5, 7-6(3). It’s a remarkable result, given how much experience he has, but not at all surprising. Musetti has now won six of his last nine matches against Top-20 competition.
“I think this is the proof that I have the level, this level,” Musetti said. confidently, after the match.
There’s nothing like your first Grand Slam win! 🙌
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 31, 2021
The Italian will lock horns with Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round.
Also making waves on Day 2 was Spains’ Alcaraz. The 18-year-old took down fellow qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4). Though he’s only 18, Alcaraz already has the reputation of a player that can withstand the rigors of clay-court tennis at the Slams.
That’s something he was proud of today.
“I think the mental game is really, really important in this kind of matches,” he said. “You have to be focus and calm all the match, like 3 hours and 10 minutes. It’s really important and not easy to do. Yeah, in the match I trust a lot in my physical, yeah. I could play really, really good game during the whole match.”
Alcaraz, who improved to 8-8 on the season with his win, will face Nikoloz Basilashvili in the second round.
The fun might not be over yet—each of these teenagers has what it takes to win another round or two in Paris.