Road to Boston: Matteo Berrettini, Team Europe
Nicknamed “The Hammer” for his lethal serve and forehand combination, Matteo Berrettini makes his Laver Cup debut for Europe in Boston, following a season of firsts – including a maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon.
The new flag-bearer of nine Italian men in the top 100, Berrettini has been a second-week fixture as one of only four men who reached the fourth round or better at each of the majors in 2021.
How the year started
In his opening match of the season Berrettini hit the ground running, defeating world No.3 Dominic Thiem for his biggest career victory as he helped steer Italy to its first ATP Cup final in Melbourne.
He backed it up with a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open before he handed Team Europe teammate Stefanos Tsitsipas a walkover due to an abdominal strain.
It proved an uncertain couple of months on the sidelines before Berrettini made a return in doubles alongside his brother Jacopo at the Sardegna Open, in Italy, where the siblings reached the semifinals.
Two titles and a first Grand Slam final
In only his second singles event back, following a first-round departure in Monte Carlo, Berrettini admitted his comeback hit full throttle even quicker than he imagined when he picked up a fourth career title in Belgrade in April.
“I proved to myself that I can fight and I can digest tough situations,” Berrettini said after beating Aslan Karatsev in the final.
I’m able to handle really tough moments. There are moments that all athletes in general have, but I really put myself in the struggle without any fear. I came back stronger.”
A week later he powered into his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid, where he defeated Team Europe teammate Casper Ruud in the semifinals before coming up narrowly short against Alexander Zverev.
A quarterfinal appearance at Roland Garros, in which he pushed eventual champion Novak Djokovic to four sets, was a precursor of more good form to come as the season switched to grass.
Berrettini became the first debutant since Boris Becker in 1985 to capture The Queen’s Club crown – his first ATP 500 title. On the lawns of Wimbledon, victory over good friend and Team World opponent Felix Auger-Aliassime sent the 25-year-old through to his second Grand Slam semifinal.
A four-set triumph over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz landed him in uncharted territory as the first Italian finalist in Wimbledon history and first at a major since Adriano Panatta at Roland Garros in 1976. In the final, Djokovic again had his measure in four sets.
How it’s going
A well-earned break after his grass-court exploits saw Berrettini return to hard courts in Cincinnati, where he went down to Auger-Aliassime in the third round. Citing the need to play his way back into form, the Italian did just that as he reached his third straight Grand Slam quarterfinal in New York.
The sixth seed again took a set off top seed Djokovic only to fall in four, but his run was enough to ensure a career-best mark of world No.7 – the highest-ranked Italian man since 1978.
Berrettini on playing Laver Cup
The Italian was thrilled to earn his place in the Team Europe lineup for the first time.
“I’m really excited to be part of the Laver Cup this year,” he said. “I’ve heard so much talk in the locker-rooms from the guys that have played it before about what a cool event it is.
“Playing at TD Garden and having Bjorn Borg as my captain… is going to be a really special experience.”