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Matteo Berrettini in 2021: The quiet man becomes a Grand Slam finalist

For the past three years, Matteo Berrettini hasn’t stopped. Ranked 100 in 2018, 50th in 2019, this year he confirmed his place in the top 10 and took another major step forward by reaching his first Grand Slam final, at Wimbledon

Matteo Berrettini, 2021 review by Tennis Majors © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Matteo Berrettini is getting better with every year. A little more powerful. A little more precise. This year, above all, he has gained in maturity. Berrettini did not reach his first Grand Slam final, at Wimbledon, by chance. The Italian is keeping his promise: at the start of 2019, he was still 52nd in the world. Last year, he broke into the top 10 and this year, he proved it was not a fluke; Berrettini, now aged 25, is right where he belongs. At No 7, the best ranking of his career.

  • Ranking at the end of 2020: 10
  • Ranking at the end of 2021: 7
  • 2021 win-loss record: 41-12
  • Titles : 2

BERRETTINI’S BEST PERFORMANCE: TWO WEEKS AT A HIGH LEVEL AT WIMBLEDON

His previous best Grand Slam performance, a semi-final effort at the 2019 US Open, was a stand-out among a set of mixed results at the four majors. Other than that semi-final, Berrettini had never gone further than the last 16. In 2021, he turned a corner. First, he reached the quarter-finals of the French Open (losing to Novak Djokovic), then during a golden fortnight at Wimbledon in the heart of summer. Impassive, much less heavy on grass, he knocked out Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz back to back. The 25-year-old then became one of three to face Djokovic in a Grand Slam final this season.

BERRETTINI’S BEST GRAND SLAM RESULT: HIS WIMBLEDON FINAL

Like many this year, Berrettini won the first set of a Grand Slam match against Djokovic. Like most, he ended up losing the match (6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3). At Wimbledon, the Italian had the support of the Centre Court crowd, though. But in the second set, Djokovic went up 4-0. And despite the chants of “Matteo!”, “Matteo!” that came from the stands, the world No 1 locked himself in a bubble that only burst when he was crowned champion for a sixth time and took his Grand Slam tally to 20, sharing the record with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Berrettini had a chance to come back, at 3-2 in the third set but he could not take one of his two break points. Djokovic, meanwhile, put his hand behind his ear to the shouts of the London crowd.  “He’s one of the best of all time,” Berrettini admitted after his defeat. “But I know I can win a Grand Slam. “

Berrettini’s best moment of 2021: His grass-court season

After a blank year in 2020 due to Covid, Berrettini has been flying high on the grass this year. The Roman had the best record of anyone on the surface, with 11 wins. Most importantly, he won the title at Queen’s, beating Briton Cameron Norrie in the final (6-4, 6-7, 6-3), and then made it all the way to his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon.

Berrettini impressed with his ability to get the ball through this relatively slow surface. He hasn’t lost his power either. The Italian hit 101 aces and won 82 percent of the points behind his first serve. “It’s been a really, really great month on grass,” he said. He now has two titles on the surface, following his Stuttgart title in 2019.

Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2021, (c) Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic
Matteo Berrettini, Wimbledon 2021, (c) Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

BERRETTINI’S “WORST” MOMENT OF 2021: HIS WITHDRAWAL THROUGH INJURY AT ATP FINALS

Berrettini had planned to end the year in style. At home, in Italy, in front of his fans. But his year-end ATP Finals in Turin came to an end in the first match against Alexander Zverev. After losing the first set on the tiebreak, he lasted just one game in the second. He remained crouched down on the court for many seconds, one hand over his eyes to try to hide his tears, without success, tormented by abdominal pains that he knew would mean he would have to give up. His ATP Finals were over. Amid a storm of applause from the home fans, Zverev came around the net to comfort him. 

“IT’S THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE ON A TENNIS COURT”

Matteo Berrettini

“It was one of the most incredible atmospheres I’ve ever experienced,” he said in a press conference. “Not being able to finish the match is something that kills me inside. It’s the worst day of my life on a tennis court.”

Matteo Berrettini, ATP Tour Finals 2021, (c) AI / Reuters / Panoramic

BERRETTINI OFF-COURT: “I AM ALWAYS SO DISCREET”

Berrettini is not bombastic. It’s nothing new. The Italian is not one to expand too much on off-court issues, keeping away from the turbulence that has affected the tennis world this year, especially on vaccination and health situation. “I’m always so discreet,” he explained to AFP, before admitting: “I just admit to you that I’m more stressed when my girlfriend (Ajla Tomljanovic) plays, than during my own matches.” Ajla and I are two very calm people,” he said. We like dogs, and movies!” He would say no more.

Ajla Tomljanovic
Matteo Berrettini and Ajla Tomljanovic

BERRETTINI’S SELF-ASSESSMENT: “A FANTASTIC YEAR”

Asked about his injury at the ATP Finals, Berrettini said he was “in the recovery phase”, according to Corriere dello Sport. The Italian also had to withdraw from the Davis Cup, the last tournament of the year.

“I’m back in training,” he said. “I’m going to play the ATP Cup (January 1-9, 2022), and then I’ll resume at the Australian Open. I will go to Australia after Christmas. The important thing is that I’m OK. The end of the year was not easy emotionally. But I always come back stronger after an injury. And I’ve had a lot of them.”

“MY YEAR 2021 ENDS WITH MANY REGRETS. BUT LOOKING BACK, I CAN ONLY BE PROUD OF THE PATH I HAVE TAKEN”

Matteo Berrettini

“It’s been a fantastic year, full of emotions, victories, painful defeats and unfortunately injuries,” he wrote on Instagram, after his withdrawal from the ATP Finals in Turin. This year he also reached the final of the Madrid Masters 1000, losing to Zverev. “My 2021 ends with many regrets,” he concluded. But looking back, I can only be proud of the path I’ve taken.”

TENNIS MAJORS’ VIEW

Metteo Berretini remains true to himself. A discreet character, in the shadow of the Next-Gen stars, Tsitsipas, Zverev or Medvedev. It’s not unfair,” said his long-time coach, Vincenzo Santopadre, in the summer of 2020. “When Matteo was young, nobody saw him becoming a great player.”

His character has not changed. His level has evolved. He knows how to manage decisive moments, how to hit a precise shot rather than a powerful one that goes off the court. He could even have won a Grand Slam before Medvedev at Wimbledon.

Berrettini has never done better than in 2021. The Italian has become a thoughtful, precise and still powerful player. This can only bring him happiness in 2022. 

Matteo Berrettini, Wimbledon 2021, (c) Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic
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