“From time to time and you will see it,” Paolo Conte sang in his song “Sparring Partner”. It seems that this desire, borrowed from the famous singer-songwriter from Asti, fits perfectly with the young Francesco Mastrelli, who climbs the world rankings without looking back, with the courage and determination of a boxer.
He challenged his first racket at the age of four because he wanted to beat his sister Valentina, who was 8, but until the age of twelve he was also a football player among the children of Pisa (“but the ball – he says – had no priority over tennis”) ).
But Francesco is not just tennis: after graduating from the General Scientific High School (“With great effort, I do not deny it”) He decided to enroll in the Faculty of Economics and Commerce in his city of Pisa (“Because I want to have a culture”).
With a height of 196 cm, weight 80 kg, solid backstrokes and traveling at an average speed of 215 km / h, Maestrelli is the prototype of the modern tennis player: “But despite my physical qualities – he explains – I don’t like playing on a few shots. In fact, I like running, suffering, and sweating, and I like the intensity of long exchanges. If I had to imagine ‘I’ being stronger than I am now, it would be a player who would be able to maintain a high pace, for much longer.” Meanwhile, at the beginning of the year it was 759 in the ATP rating, and today it is 178.
Gathering as the sixth man for the Davis team in Bologna, The 19-year-old from Tuscany was able to experience the atmosphere of the Blue Swarm which, if not the strongest of all, we are close to. Climbing at such an important stage certainly excited him (“Yesterday I was in college and a student recognized me and wanted to take a picture with me: How cute!”) but it also gave him the awareness needed to make a huge leap into the top 100.
When did Captain Volandri’s call arrive?
“I was in Cassis, France, where I just lost the semi-final, and I was as angry as a hyena. The locker room door opens and Gabrio (his coach Castricella) comes in and says to me, ‘Look, I have to tell you something. You are not going home, there is an intermediate stage to do. Six weeks later… it got blacker. Then: “Filippo called you to go to Bologna and finish sixth in the Davis Cup.” In an instant I went from hell to heaven.”
How did the national team welcome you?
“Very well. I have to thank everyone. I went on tiptoe and didn’t know how to act, but after two days all the staff hugged me. They treated me like one of them. The players are amazing too, they made me feel like someone who could have walked into the field the next day” .
Was he arguing with a very strong pick, did his arm tremble a little?
“Okay, the first Sunday noon I found myself at the Unipol Arena and my head was spinning a bit. On the pitch I was a little rough but in the end I thought about training others well more than my performance.”
What impressed you about every player you trained with?
“Di Matteo is strong, strong, strong. He plays another sport in law and service. But you understand how “thinking” the player is and how much he is a point of reference for the team even off the field. I was impressed by Janic how square he is, one hundred percent focused on training, with the desire to Improving every aspect of the game.Lorenzo is pure art.In training, he really tries everything: from damping to balls that come back.You realize that what he does in the game is not improvised solutions but the result of tried and tested shots.With Fabio and Simone, I played a little less Because they trained more with each other, but I can say that they are two great people.”
What did you pack up again when you left Bologna?
“I enjoyed every minute of this experience, as if I were a sponge. I tried to absorb all possible lessons. Let me give an example to everyone, the example of the last match Yannick lost. When you think of these samples, you imagine that they are almost perfect, but next to them you realize that they are Also facing the same difficulties as you, weaknesses that I probably didn’t want to accept. Watching the accuracy with which they prepare for the match, their mentality while playing and how they manage themselves afterward, is invaluable.”
At the start of the year it was 759 in the ATP rankings, 12 months ago even out of a thousand it’s now 178. 2022 is a bit like his year. What grew up to make this leap?
“After an initial period of adjustment, the difference made her able to live as a one hundred percent professional. I started thinking of tennis as my job and became aware of my means. My mental coach also helped me, Danilo De Gaspari.”
In Verona, in mid-July, he won his first Challenger by defeating the first Top 100 in the final, Argentine Pedro Cachin.
“You enter the field with fear. There is a lot of fans in the stands and you don’t want to tarnish it. The jump in quality is the belief that you can win these games. It was a very strong feeling in Verona, and it was the greatest feeling so far. I tried to play not ‘point by point’, As they say in jargon, but “blow to blow” so I don’t think of the finish line I was about to cross.
You missed qualifying for your first Grand Slam recently at the US Open against third-set winner Nuno Borges: is it more anger or realizing you’re in the top 100?
“In those days in New York I was so nervous and tense, I didn’t train well. Fortunately I was able to talk a little with Berrettini who helped me. I slowly got into gear and the third game, the decisive, was a river of emotions. Many interruptions due to rain and then When I entered the locker room for the third time and realized I was just a tiebreaker of the main draw at a Grand Slam: I didn’t know how to manage the situation and I came out “nailed”. In the end I cried like a child. So, to answer the question, a lot of anger, And no sleep but there is still the exhilaration of a wonderful experience.”
Francesco Mastrelli won the title at the Verona Challenger
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“I am not ashamed to say it: this year I will exceed expectations a little bit, so the finals will be the icing on the cake, and a prize for my season. Having said that, whether or not to be in Milan will not change the assessment of 2022, which remains very positive. Of course I would be very proud to be Able to compare myself to men who do what I do, but a little better.”
How long does it take to see you on the pitch as a novice in the blue jersey?
“I’m afraid it will take some time (laughs). We know we are going through a great moment in Italian tennis, with so many excellent players. I hope to be able to climb the hierarchy. I will play my cards too because this experience in Bologna made me fall in love with the atmosphere of the Cup Davis”.