Ultimate Tennis Showdown: Berrettini Takes Title

Matteo Berrettini (photo: @UTShowdown/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s final of the inaugural Ultimate Tennis Showdown, the brainchild of international coach Patrick Mouratoglou and namesake of the tennis academy near Nice, France, which hosted the month-long weekend exhibition tournament, proved anything could happen. And it did.

World No. 8 Matteo Berrettini of Italy, who began the week playing on clay at the THIEMs7 in Kitzbuhel, Austria, returned just in time to the south of France to win the UTS title on a dazzling hard court. Now, he’s off to Berlin where he will compete in this week’s bett1ACES on grass. Talk about variety!

However, before he leaves for Germany, Berrettini became the first Ultimate Tennis Showdown champion as he defeated World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece in sudden death overtime 3-2. With a quirky but special format (four 10-minute quarters) and unique rules (such as 15 seconds to put serves into play) that places a premium on speed, agility and, sometimes, endurance, Berrettini, who was nicknamed “The Hammer” by tournament promoters, was rewarded for his efforts against “The Greek God.”

Berrettini had jumped out to a comfortable 2-0 lead against Tsitsipas after winning the first and second quarters, 16-15 and 15-12, respectively. Then, Tsitsipas roared back and eked out a 14-12 third quarter win and leveled the match by winning the fourth quarter comfortably 15-8. In sudden death, the winner would be decided by whomever could string together two consecutive points. Tsitsipas had his chances, but in the end it was Berrettini who prevailed with a cross-court forehand winner.

Earlier in the day, Berrettini advanced to the final with a 3-2 sudden death win over Richard Gasquet of France, while Tsitsipas shutout Belgium’s David Goffin 3-0 to finish group play with an 8-1 win-loss record. Coupled with a 4-0 shutout of Goffin to complete group play on Saturday, Tsitsipas came into the final having won seven straight quarters. However, it just wasn’t enough.

In the championship match, while Tsitsipas proved the better server, firing seven aces to Berrettini’s four and achieving a 68 percent first-serve success to his opponent’s 48 percent, Berrettini finished with 13 winners that offset his 14 unforced errors. Tsitsipas finished with nine winner and 11 unforced errors.

After securing the UTS title, Berrettini said in a post-match interview: “This time I said to myself, it’s not going to happen. You’re gonna win this one.” Previously, Berrettini had lost in sudden death to Tsitsipas during group play.

“In Kitzbuhel, the game was going so slow,” he said. “Here, it was so fast. I think it’s going to help me in the future be there for every point. You (always) think about the next point, but you don’t blame yourself too much. Otherwise, you’re going to lose the quarter.”