#NextGenATP Italian Francesco Passaro earned his first ATP Tour win on Tuesday at the most opportune time.
The 21-year-old wild card defeated Chinese No. 1 Zhang Zhizhen 7-6(4), 7-6(6) to reach the second round of the UniCredit Firenze Open. By doing so, the home favourite continued his push for a place at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.
“Of course for me it’s an amazing day. My first ATP match win, so I’m very happy,” said Passaro, who will next play Jenson Brooksby or Mackenzie McDonald. “Now I am focussed for the next round and I’m hungry to win the match and to go up the [Pepperstone] ATP Rankings. Now I will go to rest and tomorrow I will practise.”
Passaro is in ninth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan, and with his victory against Zhang he now holds a 71-point advantage over 10th-placed Dominic Stricker, who is not in action this week. The Italian is now just 29 points behind eighth-placed Chun-Hsin Tseng of Chinese Taipei.
Passaro showed no fear under pressure against Zhang. In the second-set tie-break, he carved a daring drop shot that was too good for his 25-year-old opponent. After saving a set point at 5/6 with a big serve out wide, the World No. 126 aggressively cracked a backhand return on match point to triumph after two hours.
Another Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals contender, Brandon Nakashima, ousted former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-2. Nakashima is in sixth place in the Live Race and will next play Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek.
Earlier in the day, Alexander Bublik added another win to his impressive indoor record in 2022. This one carried a little extra meaning for the Kazakhstani.
The seventh seed’s 7-5, 6-2 victory against Cristian Garin at the ATP 250 event in Florence was his 100th tour-level victory. Bublik fired 37 winners and broke the Chilean’s serve three times to notch a Tour-leading 14th indoor win of the season.
“I played a good match, I stayed solid, I served well,” said Bublik after his 87-minute triumph. “The conditions fit me well, the court is quite fast, so I’m pleased with my game and let’s see what goes on after.”
As he celebrates reaching the 100-win milestone at the age of 25, Bublik emphasised his determination to continue working hard as he bids to improve on his career-high of No. 30 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Kazakh achieved that position after lifting his maiden ATP Tour trophy in Montpellier in February.
“I do believe you must improve every day, and improve everything, so I wouldn’t find a specific thing that I need to improve,” said Bublik. “But I think the overall game, if I can stay solid, stay disciplined, I think we can talk about something bigger.”
Like Bublik, Lorenzo Sonego has lifted an indoor title this season, but the Metz champion fell to an early exit at the hands of Bernabe Zapata Miralles in Florence. The Spaniard triumphed 6-4, 6-4 against Sonego to set a second-round clash against another Italian, third seed Lorenzo Musetti. It was the first indoor tour-level victory of Zapata Miralles’ career, at the fifth attempt.
Oscar Otte was clinical at key moments against Marton Fucsovics to complete a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 first-round win. Otte converted three from three break points against the Hungarian in the pair’s maiden ATP Head2Head meeting to book a second-round meeting against top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
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The highest-ranked Swede in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Ymer enjoyed the biggest win of his career in mid-September against then-World No. 11 Jannik Sinner in the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage. He backed up that result by reaching his seventh tour-level quarter-final on the indoor courts in Metz, and the 24-year-old will seek to make it eight quarter-finals when he meets fifth seed Aslan Karatsev in the second round in Florence.