ROME, May 14, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Hometown hero and Italian wild card Matteo Berrettini challenged 2017 champion and 2018 finalist Alexander Zverev in the featured match of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Tuesday afternoon at Foro Italico in Rome. Berrettini was in search of his first Top-10 win in his third try – and, against Zverev, he took advantage of his opportunity. He exuded confidence while Zverev lacked it.
In the end, Berrettini knocked off the World No. 5 from Germany, 7-5, 7-5, in one hour and 48 minutes. It took the Italian three match points, but he finally got the job done – much to the delight of the vocal and supportive Roman fans who filled Campo Centrale and cheered Berrettini’s every point. At 40-ad on his third match point opportunity, Berrettini hit a solid backhand return off a weak second serve that Zverev netted with a tentative forehand. Match over. Immediately, celebration broke out throughout Campo Centrale as Berrettini raised his right index finger and waved it to the crowd. Then, he tapped his heart in expression of his appreciation.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 14. Mai 2019
“Environment was great. The match that I played was horrendous,” Zverev said, as quoted by the ATP website after the match. In a separate interview with Sky Sports Germany, Zverev, whose record on clay this spring dropped to 5-6 with his loss to Berrettini, complained about the playing conditions. He said, “Wind makes me one of the worst players in the Top 10 ever.
“I will not touch the racket for a few days. I do not feel like playing tennis right now.
Zverev was also not impressed with “unprofessionalism” in his team. “Maybe I can even win the French Open, but I’m angry right now, disappointed. In particular, how I went on court today. … I went on court and I was completely dead. You can not go on a court like that.
“When we are at a Masters tournament, we have to be professional. Me and my whole team, everyone around me. (…) I want to talk to some people that something like that will not happen next time. “
With the victory, Berrettini moved into the third round of a Masters 1000 for the first time and he will face either No. 24 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina or qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, ranked 88th, on Thursday.
The 6-foot-5-inch (1.95 m) Berrettini outpointed Zverev 79-71 on the strength of winning 65 percent (49 of 75) of his service points plus 21 of 29 (72 percent) of his returns on Zverev’s second serve. Although Zverev served 11 aces and won 37 of 46 points on his first serve for an 80 percent success rate, it was the German’s second serve that got him into trouble and, eventually, did him in.
When Berrettini made his ATP Tour debut in Rome back in 2017, he was No. 249 in the ATP Rankings. He’s made steady progress since. Last year, he beat Frances Tiafoe of the United States as the World No. 103 for his first ATP Masters 1000 win. This year, he’s back and ranked No. 33 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 31 last week.
On Sunday, Berrettini defeated 2016 semifinalist Lucas Pouille to set up a rematch against Zverev. The German beat Berrettini in Rome during last year’s second round en route to his second straight Internazionali BNL d’Italia final. Since then, both Zverev, 22, and Berrettini, 23, have reached the same number of finals on tour – three. Zverev won titles in Washington, D.C., and the Nitto ATP Finals and lost at Acapulco. Meanwhile, Berrettini won at Gstaad and Budapest, but lost in Munich.
Along with Marco Cecchinato, whose scheduled match Tuesday night against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany was postponed until Wednesday because of rain, they were trying to become the first Italian duo to reach the third round in Rome since 2007. The last pair to go this far in Rome? How about Filipino Volandri and Potito Starace.
On Monday evening, another Italian, Monte-Carlo champion Fabio Fognini defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 6-3, 6-4, and improved his career record to 11-11 at the Italian Open. Fognini, who saved five of the six break points he faced, is now 8-1 in his last three tournaments. Next, he’ll take on Radu Albot, who defeated qualifier Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-2, in a first-round match on Tuesday afternoon.
A fourth Italian, 17-year-old #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner, advanced to the second round on Sunday by upsetting four-time ATP Tour titlist Steve Johnson of the United States, ranked 59th, for just his second ATP Tour win and his first at the Masters 1000 level. On Wednesday, the wild card Sinner will face No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Greek’s first match since losing the Madrid final on Sunday.
Around Foro Italico
• No. 12 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who has compiled the second-most wins (25) on the ATP Tour this season and shown consistency on clay, was upset by No. 36 Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. The mercurial Aussie, who mixed up his service pace while also attacking the net against Medvedev, finished with 15 service aces and 41 winners during the one hour and 34 minute match. Next, Kyrgios (10-6) will face qualifier Casper Ruud of Norway in the second round.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Kyrgios, who served underhanded on the opening point of his first service game. “Today, I knew it was going to be tough. Medvedev is an unbelievable player. He’s had a great year. Last year, he played really well. I knew today was going to be very tough because I haven’t played much on the clay.
“I just tried to serve really big. I tried to dictate as much as I could. A lot of drop shots. I was trying to throw him off his game because I knew he loves rhythm.”
• Playing for the first time since withdrawing from last Friday’s Madrid quarterfinal against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic due to food poisoning, No. 9 seed Marin Cilic recovered from an 0-2 deficit in the first set and a second-set comeback from Italian qualifier Andrea Basso to win 6-1, 7-5 in one hour and 39 minutes. It was Cilic’s eighth win in 14 matches this season. Next, the Croatian will face No. 51 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, who outlasted No. 48 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3. Struff hit 17 aces, won 25 of 25 first-serve points in the second set, and recovered from down 1-3 in the deciding set to advance.
• In a battle of former Top 10 stars, No. 23 David Goffin of Belgium came from behind to beat No. 29 Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, 4-6, 6-9, 6-2, in one hour and 56 minutes. It was their first head-to-head meeting in three years – Wawrinka leads 3-2 – and first time on clay. Wawrinka was a quarterfinalist in Madrid last week while Goffin has been up and down this season – two semifinal finishes, at Marseille and Estoril – but only has a 10-11 win-loss record to show for it. Next, Goffin plays No. 7 seed Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina.
• In an all-French affair, No. 42 Jeremy Chardy completed his rain-delayed first-round match with No. 39 Richard Gasquet by prevailing 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Next, Chardy will oppose World No. 2 and second seed Rafael Nadal.
• No. 11 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia defeated No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, in two hours and 29 minutes, which broke a three-match losing streak against the Spaniard. Khachanov became the first to reach the third round and he will face either No. 5 Dominic Thiem or No. 38 Fernando Verdasco on Thursday. After ending 2018 on an 11-1 run with two titles in his last three tournaments, Khachanov has struggled to a 10-11 start this year.
• Also, No. 13 seed Borna Coric of Croatia needed just 57 minutes to beat qualifier Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, ranked 45th, 6-2, 6-2, on the strength of winning 85 percent (23 of 27) of his first-serve points; No. 14 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia defeated No. 32 Laslo Djere from Serbia, 7-5, 6-4; 52nd-ranked qualifier Taylor Fritz of the United States beat clay-court wins leader and No. 21 Guido Pella of Argentina, 6-3, 6-4; and, in a battle of 5-foot-7 players, No. 24 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina bested No. 75 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-1, 6-4.
What they’re saying
Roger Federer, 37, last played in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in 2016, where he lost to Dominic Thiem in the third round. After ending a three-year absence on clay last week in Madrid, where Thiem beat him in the quarterfinals, the Swiss maestro has returned to Rome.
“I’ve just come from practising for five weeks after Miami. I think I was playing well in Madrid, so I just said, again, ‘Let’s come to Rome,’ a city I like so much as well. There would be excitement, more excitement than me coming to a practice court in Switzerland. I thought that would be nice,” said Federer on Tuesday, during his pre-tournament press conference, as quoted by the ATP website.
“Honestly, I love to play matches. Regardless of what happens here, I just think it’s good for me to play matches at this stage.”
Rome remains one of only two ATP Masters 1000 tournaments that Federer has not won, in addition to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters – but not for a lack of trying. Federer is a four-time Rome finalist (2003, 2006, 2013, 2015).
The third-seeded Federer will face No. 72 Joao Sousa of Portugal, who survived a three-hour, three-set match against No. 34 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4). Sousa fought off four match points from the American No. 2 during a 16-minute 12th game to force a final-set tie-break. Then, down 1-4 in the tie-break, Sousa won the last six points of the match. The Federer-Sousa match begins Wednesday’s play on Campo Centrale at 11 a.m.
By the numbers
With wild card Matteo Berrettini’s upset of World No. 5 Alexander Zverev on Tuesday, it marked the third straight year an Italian male has defeated a Top 10 opponent in the second round. Last year, Fabio Fognini defeated then-No. 8 Dominic Thiem, and in 2017, Fognini beat then-No. 1 Andy Murray.
Singles / first round
Nick Kyrgios d. No. 12 Daniil Medvedev, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
David Goffin d. Stan Wawrinka, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2
Diego Schwartzman d. Q-Yoshihito Nishioka, 6-1, 6-4
No. 9 Marin Cilic d. WC-Andrea Basso, 6-1, 7-5
Jan-Lennard Struff d. Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3
Q-Taylor Fritz d. Guido Pella, 6-3, 6-4
Radu Albot d. Q-Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-2
Joao Sousa d. Frances Tiafoe, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4)
Jeremy Chardy d. Richard Gasquet, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
Singles / second round
WC-Matteo Berrettini d. No. 4 Alexander Zverev, 7-5, 7-5
No. 11 Karen Khachanov d. Roberto Bautista Agut, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
No. 14 Nikoloz Basilashvili d. Laslo Djere, 7-5, 6-4
No. 13 Borna Coric d. Q-Cameron Norrie, 6-2, 6-2
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. No. 16 Marco Cecchinato, postponed, rain