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Lorenzo Sonego and the happy impermanence of results

Matt Zemek

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Geoff Burke -- USA TODAY Sports

If you evaluate sporting events and the teams or athletes which participate in them, you are always evaluating results.

Good loss.

Bad loss.

Acceptable loss.

Unacceptable loss.

He can get over this defeat.

She will need a long time to get over that one.

This is an indicator of what is to come.

That is an aberration and not reflective of what is likely to unfold over the next six months.

That loss never should have happened.

I can easily see how this happened.

We are always — or at least, OFTEN — making these kinds of snap verdicts and instant judgments on what we see and perceive.

Confession time: I and the other people who make pronouncements about the kind of win or loss an athlete absorbs are often wrong. Our first impressions are sometimes inaccurate. We felt that one version of reality was important or emergent in the present moment, but the passage of time reveals that a different version of reality was the truer or more salient one. This is the impermanence of results. This is the effect of time and how it reshapes our awareness of what a moment meant to an athlete (or to a team) months or weeks ago.

So it is for Lorenzo Sonego.

The Italian defeated eighth-seeded Karen Khachanov in straight sets on Tuesday to move into the round of 16 at the Monte Carlo Masters in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France. He has changed the way I saw a match in Phoenix a month ago.

The Phoenix challenger in March was technically a $125K event, but it had a field somewhere between an ATP 250 and 500 in terms of quality. Pete Ziebron, who can be found on Twitter at @TennisAcumen, jokingly (and yet accurately), this is an “ATP 375” event, splitting the difference between 250 and 500. A sign of how good this $125K field was: Jeremy Chardy came to Arizona to play this event. He got the No. 2 seed (behind David Goffin) as a wild card.

Chardy was supposed to beat Sonego in the round of 32. Chardy owns world-class skills, but not world-class match management capacities. Yet, those inadequate match-management capacities emerge against elite players, not against players such as Sonego.

When Sonego overcame the loss of a routine first set to beat Chardy in three, I felt that the result said everything about Chardy.

I should have listened to Pete Ziebron, who commented on site at the Phoenix challenger Sonego that he loved the Italian’s smooth game, especially a fluid service motion.

What I thought was a verdict on Chardy still contains meaning and relevance in relationship to Chardy, but it seems clear that Sonego is a bigger story from that match than I perceived at the time. Sonego was building up a higher level of form and playing resourceful tennis which brought out a fuller measure of his talent. At 23, Sonego’s task is to put together the pieces of his game. He did that in Phoenix. He did that at the Miami Open. He did that in Marrakech. He has done that at the Monte Carlo Masters.

At all four tournaments — Phoenix, Miami, Marrakech, Monte Carlo — Songego has won at least three matches, including qualifiers. He has won over a dozen matches in a five-week period.

That Sonego-Chardy match wasn’t just a familiar story of Chardy failing to live up to his potential. It was also a story of Lorenzo Sonego building his career.

What a happy impermanence of results for the young Italian, reveling in his win over Khachanov and preparing for a round-of-16 match at a Masters tournament.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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