London Debut A Memorable One For Berrettini

Matteo Berrettini (photo: @QueensTennis/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

First impressions mean everything and Matteo Berrettini’s debut this week at the cinch Championships has been a memorable impression.

On Saturday, the top seed Berrettini from Italy advanced to the London final with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, ranked 22nd, at The Queen’s Club.

With one ATP Tour grass-court title, which came at the MercedesCup in 2019, Berrettini will go for his second one on Sunday against surprising 41st-ranked Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who beat No. 2 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 7-5, 6-3, in the other semifinal.

The No. 1 Italian won 89 percent of his first serves and hit 22 winners against de Minaur. In improving his win-loss record to 25-6 for 2021, Berrettini has yet to drop a set this week in four matches. He advanced with earlier victories over fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia, and Great Britain’s Andy Murray and Dan Evans.

“That was the goal of the week [making the final], and now I have one more step,” said Berrettini during his post-match interview near Centre Court. He will be playing in his third ATP Tour final this year. “It is a great achievement, especially for the history of this tournament. I am really happy because to beat Alex today, I had to play my best tennis.

“The mentality is that I always think I can win my service games. I know that I have a big weapon with my serve and first shot. If I sleep too well it means something is off ahead of the final. I have to be nervous and tight a little bit. Otherwise, the adrenaline does not kick in and it is tougher to play.”

Earlier, Shapovalov edged American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 to move into the semifinal round. In a match that began Friday but was suspended due to bad light, Shapovalov won his third straight match on grass to advance against Norrie.

However, Norrie recovered from a break down in the first set, won 76 percent of his first-serve points, and beat Shapovalov in 94 minutes to become the first British player to reach the London final since Murray in 2016.

“I think I played very, very well today,” said Norrie, who improved to 29-12 this season, while Shapovalov dropped to 18-13. “I was extremely clutch on some of the big points. I am so pleased to be through to the final here, I can’t even describe it. It has not really sunk in yet. It is nice to get over the line there, and all credit to Denis, it was a tough match.

“It is a huge tournament for me and one of my biggest achievements so far. So, I couldn’t be more pleased with myself. Let’s see if I can win one more [Sunday].”

In the doubles draw, No. 4 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, both of France, who last week won the French Open title, defeated No. 7 seeds Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria, 6-4, 3-6, 11-9, to reach Sunday’s final. They will face either Norrie and de Minaur or Reilly Opelka of the United States and John Peers of Australia. Opelka and Peers were leading 7-6 (3), 2-2 when the match was suspended due to rain. It will be resumed following the singles final.

Bencic reaches fourth career grass-court final at bett1Open

World No. 12 Belinda Bencic reached her second final of the season and fourth grass-court final of her career with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Alizé Cornet in the semifinal round of the bett1Open in Berlin Saturday afternoon.

The No. 5 seed Bencic from Switzerland hit five aces and 29 winners to 19 unforced errors during her one-hour and 47-minute win on Steffi-Graf Stadion over the No. 63 Cornet, who finished with 11 winners and 11 unforced errors. Bencic converted all four of her break-point opportunities and outpointed the Frenchwoman 73-63. At four-all in the second set, Bencic benefited from three double faults by Cornet. She served out the win at love for her 16th victory of the season.

“Sometimes, I can really be drama on the courts and I’m not really proud of it,” Bencic said during her on-court interview. “Even in the second set, I lost my rhythm suddenly. I felt like I couldn’t put a ball in the court anymore, but I’m happy I won in the end.”

When Bencic was asked by the interviewer why she’s the favorite to win the title, Bencic, said: “Why? I think that’s the point of my job is to try to win. I think that’s why I want to win. Hopefully, I can win my fifth title here.”

Bencic, whose only grass-court title came at Eastbourne in 2015, is the highest-remaining seed following a week in which the top four seeds all fell in their first matches. In Sunday’s final, she will face unseeded 106th-ranked qualifier Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, who upset No. 7 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-4, 6-2, to reach her first WTA tour-level singles final.

“It’s all incredible for me, it’s so new, and I’m very happy for it,” Samsonova, 22, said of her triumph over the 16th-ranked Azarenka. “It’s unbelievable for me.”

The victory for Samsonova over the former World No. 1 Azarenka was her second Top 20 win of the season and of her career. She did it by hitting 24 winners, including 11 service aces. Samsonova saved each of the three break points she faced during the 66-minute semifinal match.

In doubles, Azarenka and her fourth-seeded fellow Belarus partner, Aryna Sabalenka, beat Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico, 7-5, 3-6, 10-6, to reach Sunday’s final against No. 1 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands.

Jabeur, Kasatkina advance to Birmingham final

Second seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia reached the finals of the rain-delayed WTA 250-series Viking Open Birmingham in Birmingham, England, on Saturday. The 24th-ranked Jabeur defeated Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, 6-4, 6-0, in 56 minutes to move into her third semifinal of the season and second of her career on grass following Eastbourne in 2019, where she promptly beat No. 70 Heather Watson of Great Britain, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 12 minutes.

From 1-3 down in the first set, Jabeur won 11 of the next 12 games to beat the No. 82 Potapova. Against Watson, she served six aces and hit 17 winners.

Earlier, No. 3 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia fell to Watson, 6-4, 6-2, who became just the third British player to reach the Viking Classic semifinals in the tournament’s history, following Anne Hobbs in 1984 and Jo Durie in 1992.

Meanwhile, fourth seed Daria Kasatkina reached her third final 2021 – and first of her career on grass – with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 victory over 90th-ranked qualifier Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals. Then, the 35th-ranked Russian beat 203rd-ranked qualifier Coco Vandeweghe of the United States, 6-2, 6-4, to set up Sunday’s final against Jabeur. Vandeweghe had reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.

Sunday’s doubles final will pair Jabeur and Ellen Perez of Australia against Bouzkova and fellow Czech Lucie Hradecka. Jabeur and Perez rallied to upset No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Elise Mertens of Belgium, 3-6, 7-5, 10-3, while Bouzkova and Hradecka beat Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan, 7-5, 6-3.

Halep withdraws from Bad Homburg Open

Due to a persistent calf injury, World No. 3 Simona Halep withdrew on Saturday from the upcoming WTA 250 grass-court Bad Homburg Open, which begins Sunday in west-central Germany. Halep has been idle since retiring from her second-round match against Angelique Kerber in Rome last month. It puts her Wimbledon title defense in doubt.

Raonic pulls out of Wimbledon

On Saturday evening, 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic pulled out of this year’s Wimbledon Championships. The World No. 18 Raonic from Canada cited a calf injury in posting his decision on his Instagram page.

Raonic, who missed the entire European clay season, has not played since the Miami Open. He’s appeared in just 11 matches this season, posting a 7-4 win-loss record.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Milos Raonic (@mraonic)

By the numbers

• For the first time since 1997, all four of the Queen’s Club semifinalists are age 25 or younger. Both Matteo Berrettini and Cameron Norrie are 25, while Alex de Minaur and Denis Shapovalov are each 22.

• Liudmila Samsonova of Russia became the first qualifier to reach a WTA singles final this season at the bett1Open in Berlin. She’s the first one to do it at a WTA 500-series event. With her journey to the Berlin final, the 106th-ranked Samsonova is projected to break into the WTA Top 100.

Now it can be told

What they’re posting on social media

Sloane Stephens / Steppin’ out on grass


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sloane Stephens (@sloanestephens)