Why Is Lucky Loser Lorenzi Still Pushing At 37?
Paolo Lorenzi has experienced virtually every emotion you can in the past week. On Friday, Jiri Vesely beat the Italian 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(2) in a grinding three hours and 34 minutes to reach the main draw. For the 37-year-old, it was unclear if that might have been his last opportunity to reach the main draw at a major.
But on Saturday, as he was participating in an exhibition with countryman Matteo Berrettini, Lorenzi found out he would gain entry as a lucky loser following Kevin Anderson’s withdrawal. His opponent: 16-year-old American wild card Zachary Svajda, who had never played a tour-level match.
As great as an opportunity as it appeared, Lorenzi fell behind by two sets against the home favourite, who had the crowd firmly in his corner. And to make it even tougher, less than four months from his 38th birthday, Lorenzi had never overcome a two-set deficit.
“I didn’t play my best tennis. At the beginning I was tight and I was missing a lot of balls,” Lorenzi said. “Then I was just trying to be focussed to play a little bit better.”
The good news was that the 21-time ATP Challenger Tour champion’s heartbreak came in handy. Although his defeat against Vesely was tough, it had proven to the veteran that he was physically fit to go the distance.
“I played [more than] three hours and 30 minutes and I had no problem,” Lorenzi said. “So I knew if the match was going on, I had a good feeling because my body was great after Friday and today was great again. I knew that I was in good shape.”
Lorenzi has also enjoyed plenty of success at this tournament, earning his best major result two years ago by making the Round of 16 before losing in four tough sets against eventual finalist Kevin Anderson. In that match, he battled hard to come from two sets down, but could not quite force the decider. On Monday, Lorenzi won a fourth-set tie-break to push Svajda to a fifth, and was able to finish off his comeback.
“Many times I was fighting and two years ago when I lost the fourth round against Kevin I was two sets down, then two sets to one and I lost… in the fourth set,” Lorenzi said. “This time I won the tie-break and maybe that for me was a good experience.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Lorenzi, the World No. 135. But the 37-year-old would rather have it no other way.
“I love to play tennis. Of course also Friday when I lost 7-6 in the third, I was still happy with my performance. I was happy to be here and playing tennis,” Lorenzi said. “Of course when you win these matches you are happier. But I love to play tennis and that’s why I’m still here.”
Did You Know?
Lorenzi played a 16-year-old in the first round, has practised several times since arriving in New York with 18-year-old Jannik Sinner, and he will face 19-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round.