Lehecka makes fast start at Next Gen Finals

The Czech saw off Italy’s Francesco Passaro in straight sets to begin the 2022 competition

Jiri Lehecka November 2022 Federico Pestellini / Panoramic

Czech Jiri Lehecka made a perfect start at the Next Gen Finals in Milan on Tuesday as he beat Italian Francesca Passaro in straight sets in the first match of this year’s competition.

The 20-year-old No 5 seed, who has risen to No 74 after a breakthrough year on the ATP Tour, cruised to a 4-1, 4-3 (7), 4-1 victory over the No 8 seed in 65 minutes to open the Green Group in style.

“It was a great experience for me,” Lehecka said. “I had never played a match in this format for me. In the beginning, I was getting used to it at the beginning but I got used to it pretty fast and it was fun.

“One break is a lot in the beginning of a set. In a normal set you have plenty of time to get back; here if you are 2-1 and you break him, you are serving for the set. Super happy that I won this match, first match in the tournament is always tricky. Happy with that one.”

Passaro, ranked No 119, showed plenty of spirit, battling back from a break down in the second set to force a tiebreak, and then saving two set points in the breaker. But Lehecka snatched the second set on the tiebreak and then pulled away in the third for victory.

A semi-finalist at Rotterdam in February, Lehecka narrowly missed out on a place in the Next Gen Finals last year but qualified easily this time for the eight-man event, to showcase the best 21 and under players in the world.

Lorenzo Musetti was due to take on Chun-Hsin Tseng in the first match of the Red Group later on Tuesday afternoon.

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