HomeTennisWho is Flavio Cobolli? Meet the rising star of Italian tennis set...

Who is Flavio Cobolli? Meet the rising star of Italian tennis set to face Rafael Nadal


Related stories


Rafael Nadal is set to return to action at this week’s Barcelona Open and the player lying in wait for a comeback on his beloved clay courts will be eyeing up a huge scalp.

This has already been a sensational year for Italian tennis, with Jannik Sinner’s impressive rise at the top of the men’s game likely to end with his elevation to the world No 1 ranking at some point in 2024.

We also had Italian youngster Luca Nardi pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent tennis history as he beat Novak Djokovic at the Indian Wells Masters, with the upward curve for tennis in Italy showing no sign of waning.

Italy currently has an impressive nine players in the top 100 of the ATP rankings, with former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini the lowest-ranked of those players as he makes his comeback from injury.

Now another Italian is looking to create some global sporting headlines, as 21-year-old Fabio Cobolli has been drawn to play against ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal as he makes his comeback at the Barcelona Open.

Nadal refused to commit entirely during Saturday’s draw ceremony as to whether he would play or not, but he will take on Cobolli after confirming he is ready to play.

Rising star Cobolli is currently just one spot off his career-high ranking of 62nd, with the 21-year-old Italian holding a 9-8 win-loss record for 2024.

He confirmed his potential by making it through to the third round at the Australian Open in January, which was his most impressive run at a Grand Slam so far in his career.

Cobolli has won three titles on the ITF World Tennis Tour, the tournaments just below the ATP Tour level events, and was a Junior Grand Slam champion after he won the French Open doubles event in 2020.

READ MORE: Stefanos Tsitsipas makes bold Rafael Nadal prediction ahead of his Barcelona comeback

Alongside compatriot Nardi, Cobolli qualified to play in last November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Saudi Arabia, where he gave an insight into his tennis journey.

Like many Italian players, he has been inspired by the entertaining and often explosive performances of Italian maverick Fabio Fognini, along with the current world No 1.

“My biggest idol is Fabio, and Nole (Novak Djokovic),” Cobolli told ATPTour.com. “I grew up with Fabio’s matches and I tried to improve my game watching him, so I remember a lot of his matches. I usually don’t like to watch matches, but I love to watch his matches.

“When Fabio is playing, I’m on the TV. When he’s not playing, I’m not.”

All eyes will be on Nadal when he takes to the court in Barcelona as there have been a few false starts in his latest comeback attempt.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has not played since he picked up an injury in his first tournament in almost a year in January, as he looked in good form as he won two rounds in Brisbane.

He then pulled out of the Qatar Open, Indian Wells Masters and last week’s Monte Carlo Masters with a back problem that has been slow to heal.

Yet Nadal is in Barcelona and has made it clear that he is ready to play in front of his home fans on Tuesday.

“I arrived here a bit like in a last-minute decision as I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play,” said Nadal. “Tomorrow I’m going to be on the court.

“For me it’s a gift to be able to be here in Barcelona, I will treat it as my last year here and I want to enjoy every moment.”

- Never miss a story with notifications

- Gain full access to our premium content

- Browse free from up to 5 devices at once

Latest stories