Sardegna Open 2024 – My Review

by Sebastiano Sali
sardegna open tennis

Let’s right away take a look at the elephant in the room: Francis Tiafoe, seed number 1 and current number 21 in the ATP ranking made a complete shamble of his participation to this ATP Premium 175 Challenger in Cagliari, on the beautiful Italian gem in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Was it because of his attempt to work as a barista and prepare espressos to the customers of one of Cagliari’s more renowned cafès? It could well be, considering how much effort it takes to prepare one tasty caffè, although my take is that Francis’ idiosyncrasies with Europe’s clay played a much bigger role in that. We must just wait and see how he will perform in Rome and finally in Paris, the most prestigious closing of the clay season. Hurry up though Francis, opportunities are getting thinner and thinner… 

Speaking of Sardegna and of Cagliari in particular, the second biggest piece of news, is that if you were thinking of holidaying in Sardinia at the end of April, the weather can be miserably bleak, rainy, cold and windy just like any other sea resort on the North Sea in July (no hard feelings). Could that be another reason to be added to Francis’ poor performance list? 

It was instead Mariano Navone, 23 years old from Argentina, now at his career high 31 ATP ranking, to go home with a bag full. A full upset? Not really, I would argue. As I wrote in my very personal preview, Tiafoe and Musetti (seed number 2 and ATP number 29) had the ranking on their side, but neither Francis, as already mentioned never at home on the European clay, nor Musetti, incredibly discontinuous in this 2024 (as always in his career), were my favourites. 

And what about Lorenzo il Magnifico, as they call Musetti in Italy, matching his Tuscanity with the nickname of arguably the greatest Tuscan ruler from the Medici family? Should we consider his descent to the junior tour positive, despite losing 75 61 in the final? Personally I would suggest exactly that, even though Lorenzo and his long-time coach, Simone Tartarini, would publicly disagree. In fact, in the traditional post-match press conference, Musetti told the journalists that he was happy enough to have regained confidence in his tennis and in himself. Well, well Lorenzo…

But thanks to our good friend Michele Schirru, who runs the Italian channel Lost in Tennis and who trod the grounds of the Tennis Club Cagliari for the whole week, we have access to more than just the official statements from the formal press conferences. Michele got closer to players, staff, organisers and journalists and here are the eight best easter eggs he has found on the grounds and shared with us:

  1. The highest string tension was recorded on Fabio Fognini’s Babolat Pure Drive Anniversary: 27/25 kilos, with a stiff, 1.30mm thick monofilament.
  2. The lowest string tension was instead found on Lorenzo Sonego’s Wilson Blade 18/20: 19/18 kilos, with a soft 1.25 monofilament. 
  3. It is not to be known Luciano Darderi’s string tension. Why? Because the Argentinian with Italian passport, who recently has taken out Shapovalov in the first round of the Italian Open in Rome, usually has his rackets strung at home by his dad!
  4. What we do know though about Darderi, is that he loves the traditional Sardinian filled pasta, the Malloreddu.
  5. Marton Fucsovic’s favourite meal instead is calzone and, as per his confession to Michele, he eat one every evening in Cagliari!
  6. Mike Lawrence, the ATP official photographer in Cagliari, took some 11 thousand pictures in one week!!! And only 10% of them made it to the final cut. Crazy!
  7. Mariano Navone, winner in Cagliari, switched his grip from a full to a semi-western in 2022. And according to his memory (we intentionally refrained from fact-checking Mariano here, as we know how important self-confidence is for a tennis player), he has not won an official match for four months after the switch. But now he feels it was worth it.
  8. Did Mariano find his better tennis thanks to his habit of drinking mate every morning? 

By Sebastiano Sali with a big thanks to @iamlostintennis Michele Schirru for the operations on the ground

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