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Lopez The Torero wins controversial third quarter to blunt Berrettini’s Hammer

Feliciano Lopez came out on top of a heated and controversial match against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini to record his second victory of Ultimate Tennis Showdown (14-12, 14-8, 12-11, 16-13).

Feliciano Lopez, UTS 2020 Feliciano Lopez, UTS 2020

The man nicknamed ‘The Torero’ was in inspired form in this exciting and innovative Patrick Mouratoglou format of high intensity tennis, blunting the ferocious power game of Berrettini – The Hammer – with his attractive game of craft and guile, taking a 2-0 lead after the opening ten minute quarters. And, with two seconds remaining in the third and leading by a point, the Spaniard was unable to take position to receive as Berrettini tried to get one last serve in, sparking a heated debate.

The umpire’s decision, however, was final, and with Berrettini’s composure clearly deserting him, Lopez stayed cool to complete a well-deserved 4-0 victory.

Berrettini, who sat on top of the UTS table after dominant performances in his opening two matches against Dustin Brown and David Goffin, started as he meant to continue, hammering down an opening ace. There was little to separate the pair in the opening exchanges, tied at 6-6, when The Torero opted to play his “Steal Serve” card, giving him four successive serves.

And with both players utilising their cards well at the end of the quarter, it was Lopez who played the clutch points better as the clock ticked down, finishing off a 14-12 quarter with a sublime backhand volley winner.

“I’m happy with the way I started. I had a very good start to the quarter then he played very aggressive on his serve and I was unable to put the ball in play but then I went for it and was very aggressive and ended up winning the quarter, so I think I did it the right way,” said Lopez at the first change. “Against players like Matteo with so much power it’s very tough for me to come in but I still tried, and it worked very well in this quarter.”

Berrettini hasn’t been used to being behind since the start of UTS, and this was a new scenario for The Hammer, especially as The Torero again got off to a flyer in the second quarter, 5-1 up and employing Steal Serve to good effect to edge further ahead.

Yet this is certainly a format when momentum can switch in the blink of an eye, and every point matters, The Hammer getting back to within a couple of points before Lopez won both points on his “Winner x3” card, without getting the maximum three. And despite The Hammer utilising his “Steal Serve” card in an attempt to redress the balance, the clock was against him and Lopez stayed solid to take a surprise 2-0 lead.

Lopez wins controversial third quarter to seal victory

“The quarter started very solid and I took the lead by 5-1 or 6-1, which was key because it was a huge advantage and he could not come back after that lead. I think I was also serving pretty good during this quarter again, which is also very important during this format.”

In this best of 4 quarters encounter, The Torero still needed to land the killer blow, as does the matador to the bull, and the bullish power of Berrettini is always a danger to any player on the tour. It was Lopez who took the bull by the horns, though, first to play his “Winner x3” card, winning one out of two points to stay 6-4 up.

With momentum behind him, The Torero opted to “Steal Serve” and left Berrettini incensed by a volley from his opponent that was called good. The Italian still had two cards up his sleeve, though, and played “Steal Serve” to good effect, levelling things up at 10-10 with under a minute remaining. It made for a grandstand finish, and with a second remaining on the clock at 12-11 down, Berrettini attempted to get a final serve in court, with Lopez not ready to receive. It created the first controversial moment of the tournament, and a protracted dispute with the umpire followed, ultimately in vein.

“It was very tight and was much easier for him to be ready because he just has to do one step to the other side,” explained Lopez of the controversial end to the quarter. “I had to walk a bit more and there was only two seconds, I think, left since I missed the return, so I understand it’s tough to make a decision but it happened that way, so I have nothing else to say. I tried to be ready, but I wasn’t ready the same time as he was.”

With Berrettini still near the top of the standings and every quarter important concerning qualification through to the knockout phases, there was still much as stake concerning the final quarter.

But the momentum was now firmly behind the Spaniard, and with The Hammer clearly deflated after the end of the third quarter, Lopez ran out a deserved victor.

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