Matteo Berrettini has always excelled on grass courts, his big serve and booming forehand at their most dangerous on the slick lawns. But it was at the 2019 US Open where the Italian made his Grand Slam breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals before a defeat to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
With that experience in his locker, in addition to a run to the 2021 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Berrettini was hotly tipped for another deep run at Wimbledon in 2021. His title triumph on the grass at The Queen’s Club in London, just before the year’s third major, lifted him further up the list of favourites at the All England Club.
At Wimbledon, Berrettini dropped just one set in his first four matches as he cruised into the quarter-finals for the first time. A pair of four-set victories against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz sent him through the the final, where World No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was waiting. By reaching the championship match, he became the first Italian man to reach a major final since Adriano Panatta in 1976.
Berrettini looked back on the final, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) defeat played at the highest level from both men, in the Netflix docuseries Break Point. For added perspective, ATPTour.com caught up with his brother, fellow tennis player Jacopo Berrettini, for his own reflections.
“I told sometimes to [Matteo] and my parents that the final at Wimbledon was probably the first match that I was really, really nervous before the match,” he said. “Every time I’m really calm and I have energy to give to him, but calm. At that time I [left] the stadium at Wimbledon to eat something and I couldn’t eat anything. It was the first time I felt something like that.
“It’s crazy and I was really proud of him and he was fighting with Djokovic, against the injury that he had,” he continued, referring to the thigh injury which later forced Berrettini to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics. “He fought a lot and he did something crazy for him, for the family, for Italy too. For tennis in Italy it was the first time. I was really proud at that time and I am proud of him now too.”
Berrettini roared back from a slow start to claim the opening set against Djokovic, but ultimately fell victim to the Serbian’s steady, probing game. While he fell just short on that occasion, seeing an 11-match win streak come to a close, the Italian has used that experience to become a mainstay in the later round of Grand Slams. Dating back to Roland Garros in 2021, just before his Wimbledon run, he has reached the quarter-finals or better at each of the past five majors he’s played.
Though he is still seeking a second chance in a Grand Slam final, Berrettini has proven he is more than capable of delivering with the pressure on. His 7-5 record in tour-level finals includes two trophies in both 2021 and 2022, and he reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 6 after his run to the Australian Open quarters last year.
While his 2022 season was interrupted by a right-hand injury that required surgery, he returned in time for the grass-court swing, during which he won back-to-back titles at Stuttgart and The Queens’ Club. Once again, Berrettini entered Wimbledon among the shortlist of favourites, but his opportunity compete again the famous lawns was taken away by a positive COVID-19 test just before the tournament.
While Berrettini’s injury (and illness) luck plagued him last season, his brother sees the bright side in an injury of his own, which freed him up to be in London during Wimbledon in 2021.
“I was supposed to play one tournament that week, but I had an injury so I didn’t play that tournament,” he explained, discussing Berrettini’s run to the final. “I came back to home, and then when [Matteo] went to the semi-finals I went to London. Probably I was lucky I had an injury because I enjoyed that moment with him and all the family.”