Stricker beats favorite Musetti to reach Next Gen semifinals

MILAN (AP) — Seventh-seeded Dominic Stricker upset tournament favorite Lorenzo Musetti in five sets at the Next Gen ATP Finals on Wednesday to become the first player to qualify for the semifinals.

Stricker followed up Tuesday’s victory over Jack Draper by beating Musetti 4-3 (5), 4-3 (6), 3-4 (7), 3-4 (6), 4-3 (3). The Swiss player, who served up 20 aces on Wednesday, has now beaten the two highest-ranked players in the Milan draw.

Cheered on by the passionate home crowd, Musetti appeared to be on the verge of a comeback after saving a match point in the third-set tiebreaker and going on to level the match. He also saved another match point in the final tiebreaker but hit a return wide on the next.

Musetti is the highest-seeded player for the year-ending tournament for 21-and-under players after Paris Masters champion Holger Rune withdrew to be an alternate for the ATP Finals.

At No. 23, Musetti is also the only player in the eight-man field ranked in the top 40.

Musetti faces Draper in the final round of group-stage matches on Thursday, with the winner to take the other place in the semifinals from the Red Group. Draper earlier beat Tseng Chun-hsin 1-4, 4-2, 4-3 (2), 4-2.

In the Green Group, fourth-seeded Brandon Nakashima of the United States is the only one with two wins out of two after a commanding 4-1, 4-3 (2), 4-2 victory over Jiri Lehecka.

Francesco Passaro saved three match points on his way to beating fellow Italian Matteo Arnaldi 4-3 (7), 2-4, 3-4 (4), 4-3 (4,) 4-3 (8).

This is the fifth edition of the event, which features shorter sets of first to four games and other experimental format changes. New rules for this edition include no changeovers after the first game of each set and only one sit-down per set after three games; a 15-second serve clock after aces, double-faults and unreturned serves; and coaching during an opponent’s medical time out or toilet break.

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