Berrettini: Madrid Final Brings Special Feeling

Matteo Berrettini (photo: @MutuaMadridOpen/Twitter)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 9, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Every tennis match is a fight in the mind of Italy’s talented and introspective Matteo Berrettini. While he possesses the physical talents to be a successful tennis player, he’s worked hard on his mental game, too.

The World No. 9 Berrettini, who is seeded eighth in this week’s Mutua Madrid Open, has figured out each of his opponents, and round by round has beaten fellow Italian Fabio Fognini, Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, Cristian Garin of Chile, and, most recently, Casper Ruud of Norway to reach his first Masters 1000 title match at La Caja Mágica.

“It’s definitely a really good feeling,” Berrettini said.

After grabbing the final 11 games of his quarterfinal win against Garin, on Saturday evening, Berrettini edged the 22nd-ranked Ruud, 6-4, 6-4, by leveraging a service break in each set to beat the Norwegian who was appearing in his third straight ATP Masters 1000 clay-court semifinal. It was Berrettini’s first win against Ruud on clay in three attempts. He finished with 24 winners against 15 unforced errors and lost just eight points on his serve.

Berrettini, 25, is no stranger to finals – he’s won four of the five he’s been in. However, on Sunday when he steps out on Manolo Santana Stadium against World No. 6 and fifth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who is seeking his fourth Masters 1000 title and second in Madrid, Berrettini will try to treat it like any other final he’s played in.

“It’s different in a way. When you’re about to play, you’re just thinking that you’re playing a final,” Berrettini admitted during one of his Madrid virtual press conferences. “Obviously, I was in the semis [at the] US Open. Everything is different, but it’s just a great feeling. Especially, after the struggle after my injury, I think I worked really hard. I’m maybe even more happy.”

Zverev spoke positively of Berrettini when he was asked about him during his virtual press conference after beating Dominic Thiem Saturday. “He’s been playing exceptionally well this week,” he said. “I saw the end of [Friday] where he won 11 games in a row. He was almost unplayable. He was hitting the ball so hard, serving extremely well. It’s going to be difficult.”

Following the Australian Open, Berrettini (who is 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 209 pounds) was shelved with an abdominal strain injury and didn’t resurface until the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters last month, where he promptly lost his first match in straight sets to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. However, in his next tournament in Belgrade, Berrettini strung together four straight wins – against Italy’s Marco Cecchinato, Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Taro Daniel of Japan and Aslan Karatsev from Russia – to win the Serbia Open. Now, he’s into his second straight clay-court final.

“It’s an injury that I still feel it,” Berrettini said. “It’s really tricky. Mentally, you have to be strong because you have to know that you’re fine, but at the same time you have to be careful. I’m working every day with my team in order to get better, to feel more confident.

“It’s crazy because after three days that I got injured, I could do a crunch with my abs, but I couldn’t turn. When I was getting in the car, when I took the flight, I was struggling. I was feeling it. When I was sneezing, I was feeling it.

“Then, from the very first moment, I mean, after three or four weeks, I could hit the ball. After, I was really tired. My ab was hurting. I was feeling tired pretty quickly. I couldn’t serve for a long time. Even in Miami, I wasn’t serving 100 percent. That’s why I didn’t play.

“It was really tricky, but at the same time mentally, it was great work, a great effort. Now, I guess it’s why I’m feeling good now.”

Berrettini will try to stop 2018 Madrid champion Zverev, who advanced over World No. 4 and third seed Dominic Thiem to reach this year’s final, from winning a second title in the Spanish capital city.

“He’s playing really good,” Berrettini said. “He’s solid; he moves well for his height. He serves well.. He beat Rafa and Dominic, probably the best players on clay. It’s going to be a challenging match, but I’m in the finals. I guess the best two guys are going to play each other.”

Mektic and Pavic vying for sixth doubles title this season

Second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia will face No. 3 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos from Argentina in Sunday afternoon’s Mutua Madrid doubles final.

Mektic and Pavic, who are 32-3, are vying for their sixth title of the season and third ATP Masters 1000 crown. The Croatian duo has already captured Masters 1000 crowns at the Miami Open and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Meanwhile, Granollers and Zeballos are 8-5 together and searching for their first title of the season after reaching the Acapulco final in March. They won three titles as a team last year.

Next stop: To Rome with love

On Saturday, the main draws for the Internazionali BNL D’Italia ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000-series events in Rome were revealed. Top seeds are World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the men and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty for the women.