Local 17-year-old wild card beats US veteran Johnson in Rome
ROME (AP) — Local teenager Jannik Sinner rallied to beat American veteran Steve Johnson 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the first round of the Italian Open on Sunday.
In his Masters Series debut, the 17-year-old Sinner saved a match point when he trailed 2-5 in the final set, winning five straight games to close it out in front of a partisan crowd on a rainy day at the Foro Italico.
“He’s a good player but I knew I could beat him,” Sinner said.
Sinner, who earned a wild card by reaching the final of a pre-qualifying tournament, is the youngest player in the top 400 of the rankings at No. 262. He’ll next face eighth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is fresh off an appearance in the Madrid Open final.
“My goal isn’t just to win a few matches,” Sinner said. “I want to take it a step further in a few years.”
Sinner, who is from the German-speaking Alto Adige region in northern Italy, was a top junior ski racer until he turned to tennis full time.
Earlier, Nikoloz Basilashvili took advantage of a close call in the second-set tiebreaker to defeat Marton Fucsovics 6-1, 7-6 (2).
Fucsovics protested when he thought that the 14th-seeded Basilashvili had double faulted, and then as he walked off the court he pulled out his phone and took a photo of the ball mark while shaking his head.
Fucsovics later posted the photo on Instagram with the accompanying caption, “If the ball is out then its a double fault, still some chance for me. But the referee overruled.”
Also, Philipp Kohlschreiber eliminated Gilles Simon 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 after a long rain delay during the first set. Italian wild card Matteo Berrettini beat Lucas Pouille 6-2, 6-4 and will next face 2017 champion Alexander Zverev.