Liam Caruana is currently No. 622 in the ATP Rankings. The 20-year-old has contested just one tour-level match in his career. But after battling through an eight-player 21-and-under Italian wild card event, Caruana has a chance to compete in the prestigious Next Gen ATP Finals.
“It’s new for me,” Caruana said. “But I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
An added element to the event for the Italian is that he grew up playing against two star #NextGenATP Americans. Caruana’s father moved their family to the United States in 2004. Living in San Diego, Caruana first played Taylor Fritz when he was 10 years old. He met Frances Tiafoe when he was 12.
“It’s really cool,” Caruana said of being on a major stage in the sport with childhood friends and rivals. “It obviously means a lot to me because I was growing up playing the juniors with them and now to be in the Next Gen ATP Finals with most of them is a great thing for me and I’m excited to be here.”
It also shows Caruana where he could be if he continues moving his game forward. Fritz and Tiafoe are both set to finish inside the Top 50 of the year-end ATP Rankings. All seven direct qualifiers for the event held at the Fiera Milano have cracked the Top 80 this year.
“It does motivate me to push for more,” said Caruana, whose career-high is No. 375. “I’ve had a tough year with injuries and overall just being consistent. But being with these guys, seeing this type of lifestyle does really motivate me to strive for more.”
While none of his injuries have been major, Caruana hurt his abductor, shoulder and bicep this season, with the physical difficulties limiting his practice for months.
“I feel good physically now,” Caruana said. “I worked hard for the qualifying event for this and now I’m here.”
Caruana got through the qualifying tournament in dramatic fashion, clawing back from two sets down in the semi-finals and behind by a set in the final. He defeated the event’s top two seeds to earn his berth in the Next Gen ATP Finals.
“It was great,” Caruana said. “There was a lot of support at the qualifying event and I was able to showcase some good tennis. It was all for the goal to be here and it’s great.”
Now, Caruana will try to show the tennis that got him to this moment against the best #NextGenATP competitors in the world. And while he knows the competition won’t be easy, Caruana’s goals are simple.
“Just to leave everything on the court and compete to the best of my ability because every match will be very difficult,” Caruana said. “But I feel ready.”
Source: ATP World Tour