With an expansive game, Lorenzo Musetti’s flamboyant brand of tennis brings a smile to his legion of fans across the world. However, the #NextGenATP Italian hasn’t been smiling too much lately. “I had lost the spirit of tennis, the passion that I had,” he admitted at the Astana Open on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old, who opened his Nur-Sultan campaign with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Australian qualifier Marc Polmans, said, “I had a lot in my head inside the court and outside the court. I broke up with my girlfriend, things like this.

“After the French Open [Roland Garros], I was really under the spotlight. Media and things outside, maybe I gave too much time to that and didn’t focus enough on my tennis. It’s been a hard period for me.”

Musetti believes that he turned a corner earlier this month at the US Open.

“I made sure I enjoyed the tennis a bit more,” Musetti said at this week’s ATP 250 tournament. “It came back in New York. It was a really nice atmosphere there. It was the first tournament we could go out in the city. I saw a lot of players and friends. I started to train better, more consistency and finally I’m smiling. I am not the sad person I was recently.”

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Having reached ATP Tour semi-finals this year in Acapulco and Lyon (l. to Tsitsipas both times), Musetti has risen from No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 57.

“It’s a lot of pressure on a 19-year-old, to be expected to win most of the time,” said Musetti. “I didn’t know how to manage it. I was exploding inside, and I couldn’t give 100 per cent on the court. I started to work with a mental trainer and it’s working. It’s not easy to change these things, I think it’s a long way to go, but I’ve improved mentally.

“Even in this match [against Polmans], I fought for every point. That’s what makes me the happiest. Look at Marc, Top 150, it’s so hard. There is such a tiny difference from the Challengers to here on the ATP Tour. Everyone has to be at 100 per cent the whole time and that’s tough.”

Musetti beat David Goffin, Yoshihito Nishioka and his close friend Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros this year. “It was unexpected on debut, [but] I learned so much about myself,” said Musetti, who led Novak Djokovic by two sets to love only to lose their fourth round in Paris. “I hope to have a lot of second weeks in my career.”

Having grown up on the junior circuit with the likes of Leylah Fernandez and Carlos Alcaraz, the Italian is buoyed by the progress of his peers.

“Emma Raducanu who won, Carlos is also 18-years-old,” said Musetti. “I’m good friends with Leylah, it was unexpected, also for her. We are 18, 19 [year]s in age, [and] it motivates me a lot… They played really well, they’ve trained really hard, everyone is sacrificing, but when you have talent and sacrifice, that’s a good combination. They did it and they deserve what they achieved. I hope to join them.”

But first, Musetti is aiming for a deep run in Nur-Sultan to boost his chances of qualifying for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held in Milan from 9-13 November.

“I’m really looking forward to this [and] I hope to qualify,” said Musetti, who is currently in sixth position in the ATP Race To Milan.

“I think it would be really special for me to play in Milan, in front of a home crowd. It’s not so far from my hometown [Carrara]. I think if I qualify, I’ll make sure it’s a good event for me. I’m trying to go forward as far as possible here to take points to qualify.”

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