Passaro denies Arnaldi and overcomes cramp to win longest ever match at Next Gen Finals

Passaro saved three match points to win an epic encounter after two hours, 38 minutes

Francesco Passaro, 2022 Francesco Passaro, 2022 | © Zuma / Panoramic

Francesco Passaro battled through cramp as he produced a remarkable victory over fellow Italian Matteo Arnaldi in Milan on Wednesday, in the longest match in Next Gen Finals history.

The 21-year-old saved three match points as he won 4-3 (7), 2-4, 3-4 (4), 4-3 (4), 4-3 (8), finally clinching victory with a smash to win it after two hours, 38 minutes of pure drama in front of a packed crowd.

“I am very tired,” he said. “It was a really long match and this format is a very tough and physical match. For me it was very difficult today because I lost a lot of fluid, with the tension, I had cramp. I am really happy with this win.”

Cramp turns the match around

Passaro, ranked 119, looked down and out when he was suddenly afflicted by cramp when trailing two sets to one and 3-1, 0-30 on his serve.

But suddenly Passaro began to go for broke and it worked as he held serve for 2-3 and then, with Arnaldi clearly startled, he levelled and took the resulting tiebreak 7-4 to force a decider.

Passaro had taken some sachets of salt in the tiebreak and they began to kick in as the two men set about each other in the final set.

Arnaldi steadied the ship but faced a match point at 2-3, which he saved superbly, to force yet another tiebreak, this time to decide the match.

And when the world No 134 led 3-0, it looked like he would win the match. At 6-4 he had two match points but Arnaldi, still battling cramp at times, continued to go on the attack. He saved both and then, after saving another at 7-6, had a match point of his own at 8-7, only for Passaro to come up with a moment of magic.

But Arnaldi would not be denied and he forced another match point before finally sealing the match when he put away a simple smash.

Passaro had lost his first match of the event, a straight-sets loss to Jiri Lehecka, on Tuesday, while Arnaldi lost in five sets to Brandon Nakashima.

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