Huesler is the first to reach the Sofia Open 2022 final

Swiss Marc-Andrea Huesler advanced to the final of the Sofia Open by winning against Italian Lorenzo Musetti. The No 4 seed, 7:6 (5), 7:5 at the “Arena Armeec” Sofia on Saturday afternoon.

Earlier in the tournament, the Swiss beat French qualifier Geoffrey Blancaneaux (6:4, 6:4), Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the second seed (6:3, 3:6, 6:2) and Pole Kamil Majchrzak (6:7 (4), 7:6 (6), 6:3).

The Swiss played his second semifinal of the year, following his previous one at the Winston-Salem Open in August, but it will be his first final for the year.

Huesler, ranked No 95, will play the winner of the match between Italian Jannik Sinner, the top seed, and Dane Holger Rune, the No 5 seed, next.

The Swiss lefty reeled off six points in a row from 1/5 to claim the first-set tie-break against Musetti and produced plenty of high-powered serving and decisive volleying en route to a 96-minute semi-final victory. The 26-year-old had saved two match points in the second-set tie-break against Kamil Majchrzak in Friday’s quarter-finals, and will now meet defending champion Jannik Sinner or fifth seed Holger Rune in Sunday’s championship match.

Musetti, ranked No 30, won against Bulgarian wildcard Alexandar Lazarov (6:7 (5), 7:6 (8), 6:2) and German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff (7:6 (3), 6:1) in the previous rounds. It was his second semifinal of the season. His previous last four showing was during his title-winning run at the Hamburg European Open a couple of months ago.

Despite the loss Musetti, along with other semi-finalist Holger Rune, have alread qualified for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held in Milan from 8-12 November. They both will compete at the 21-and-under season finale for the second consecutive year.

Twenty-year-old Musetti and 19-year-old Rune guaranteed their spots Friday by advancing to the semi-finals of the Sofia Open. They will become the fourth and fifth players to play in the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in consecutive years, joining Andrey Rublev, Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe.

Musetti claimed his first ATP Tour title this July at the ATP 500 event in Hamburg. The Italian saved two match points against Dusan Lajovic in the first round before stunning then-World No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz in a thrilling three-set final.  Musetti also defeated then-World No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime in Monte Carlo and 2021 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Hubert Hurkacz in Rotterdam. The 6’1” righty reached a career-high No. 30 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 1 July, but today he lost to the world N95 in 1:35 hours.

“For sure,” said Huesler, when asked if it was one of the biggest moments of his career. “I mean I’ve never been in the final before of an ATP event. I’m obviously a bit speechless. I can’t quite believe that I’m able to win today and make it to the finals, but I played a really great match today and I’m just really happy.”

Despite Huesler firing only 24 winners to Musetti’s 29 in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, the Swiss was clinical at key moments to notch his ninth tour-level win of the season.

“In those moments, it is not looking good,” said Huesler of his 1/5 deficit in the first-set tie-break. “You just try to play point-by-point. Everyone knows that in tennis it is never over until the last point is played. Obviously if he keeps his level high there, I’m probably going to lose that set, but then again you just try to stay in. I played a couple of good points at 5/5, went for my shots, and then it can go fast.

“On the whole I feel really good here. I feel like we were both serving really, really well, not many rallies, and then it’s hard once you get the rally, to actually be in it, but I’m very happy with the way I handled it today.”

The Swiss has met both his potential final opponents before. He fell to Sinner in straight sets at the 2020 edition of the Sofia event, while he defeated Rune on clay in Bastad in the pair’s only previous tour-level meeting in July.

“I know them both a little, I played against them before,” said Huesler, whose exploits this week in Sofia have lifted him 21 spots to No. 74 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. “For me it’s going to be a final, so it’s completely new anyway. I’m just going to focus on myself, but it’s going to be a good match for sure.”