For Matteo Berrettini, This Wimbledon Has Happened For Years


WIMBLEDON, UK — Matteo Berrettini has been in the limelight this summer.

The 24-3 series, which started with a championship in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, advanced to the Wimbledon semi-finals where seventh-seeded Berrettini will face 14-seeded Polish Hubert Hurkacz in the men’s singles final on Friday.

It’s been a long and steep climb since Berrettini came to a tennis club in Rome at the age of 14 and admired the reputation of coach Vincenzo Santopadre, whom he met. The career-record singles ranking was 100..

“I started with him when I was 14 and it was crazy for me to think about getting into the top 100,” Berrettini said in an interview. “His top rank was number 100 and he was like, ‘Wow, this guy is awesome!’ I was looking at it.”

Berrettini was not one of the best players in Italy in his age range, and Santopadre and other coaches at Circolo Canottieri Aniene wanted to give him time and space to decide if tennis was something he wanted to do seriously.

“I wanted to wait for him to decide to become a tennis player because sometimes there are young people who start too early to be pros,” Santopadre, who still coaches Berrettini more than a decade later, said in an interview. “I wanted him to know that he wanted to be a tennis player.”

Santopadre saw a player in Berrettini who could break the mold of the typical Italian tennis player who relied on high-spin forehands on clay courts and “tried to force him to be less conservative in his game”.

Berrettini is confident in his belief in Santopadre’s vision of where his career is going.

“One of the best things I did in my career was when I was younger I really trusted Vincenzo,” said Berrettini. “He looked at me and saw that I was growing so tall, taller, and he said to me, ‘Look, you’re going to be an aggressive player. You’re going to serve bombs and try to score points as quickly as possible.”

While returning to tactics that allow many young players to win games at the junior level, Santopadre said Berrettini adheres to the first-strike, high-award-winning style of tennis he wanted Santopadre to play.

Santopadre said, “One of the best things we’ve done is understand that it’s a long-term project to be a great player.” Said. “When he was young, he didn’t care about results; He just wanted to improve. That was his mentality.”

As he grew 6 feet 5 inches, Berrettini’s physicality was sharpened to make him a powerhouse: Listed at 209 pounds, the heaviest player in the ATP top 20 is over 10 pounds heavier than the next player.

Berrettini, who led the players who missed 57 percent of their first serve at Wimbledon, said he felt confident knowing he could “serve for five hours”.

“That’s what we were working on: We tried to be explosive, strong, powerful,” Berrettini said. “That’s what I love to do. In tennis you have to be ready for anything, for long rallies, but these are the guns we’re trying to have. I’m very happy to have confidence in them right now.”

Where Berrettini fails to recover, he says with a self-deprecating laugh that he’s below his knee, leaving him unusually high for a tennis player.

“This is why I play with ankles because my ankles and calves are so thin and fragile,” he said. “This is how my family is: genetics. There is nothing I can do about it. I swear I work on my calves but it looks like I’m not. I do and nothing.”

But despite this minor disappointment, Berrettini is increasingly liking what he sees in himself and is more confident since his strong debuts at the 2019 Grand Slam tournaments peaked by rushing to the semifinals of the US Open.

“And then, after the US Open, I looked at myself in the mirror and said: You’re really dangerous when you’re open like this, with your guns working, your mindset there. I felt it after that too.”

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic remains the clear favorite in the first half of the draw, while Santopadre said Berrettini’s confidence in belonging to the sport’s upper echelon has become as formidable a weapon as his strong serve and forehand.

“The best thing is that he knows he is the best player right now,” Santopadre said. “Awareness of this issue has improved a lot. He feels comfortable playing the best players. He knows he can win against anyone. He knows he can win a Grand Slam title.”

Berrettini, who came to Wimbledon as a popular pick to reach the final after winning the nearby warm-up event at London’s Queen’s Club, said that after more than a decade of rekindling expectations of what might be possible, he and Santopadre felt it. ready to win this tournament.

“I believe in this and my team believes in it,” said Berrettini. “It took a while, but now everyone is looking in the same direction and it feels great.”


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