Rome. 2022 Matteo Berrettini has not been an easy year so far, even if there is no shortage of successes, especially successes on grass in Stuttgart and in Queens. However, a win with Italy in the Davis Cup – which begins tomorrow at the Unipol Arena against Croatia in Group D that will qualify for first and second places for the eighth final in Malaga – could change the meaning. Make it special. Among other things, Matteo never played in the blue jersey at home: after making his debut in India, the epidemic arrived, the format of the event changed, and the injuries that kept him for example last year in Turin.
“It will be the first time that I will be at home – said yesterday the bright, ironic and self-deprecating Mateo, guest of his new patron Ilumia at a meeting also open to the press – so it is a strong emotion. Success can truly change the fate of a vintage. We are a good, united and competitive group. We didn’t play many matches, we practically never played together, but we want to move on. After coming back from New York, I went to Milan to pay tribute to the Italian basket, and I told the boys that I wanted to transfer some of their positive energy to the Davis Cup as well.”
Illumia is the premier example of a family business in the energy and gas field, and Matteo has never hid the close relationship with his family. “First of all because they put me in. The world – joking – then because they were always by my side. Family and sports, these have always been my memories, I was practically born in a tennis club. As a teenager, there were probably times when everything was not so right, because of me, this is typical of teenagers. But those moments also serve to grow.”
Mathieu has also spoken about how he has grown over the years, from the kid who dreamed of being a tennis player to the top ten and finalist at Wimbledon. “When I was a kid I always complained, my coach Vincenzo Santopadre used to call me ‘radio’. Then I realized that you want to win you have to think about determining the next point, not complaining about what you just played, and since then it has changed.” Certainly for the better.
In his path made up of the many relationships that have been strengthened over the years, the role of Stefano Massari, who has always been his mental coach, is also very important. “In the beginning we talked in general about how school and sports go hand in hand, and about how to communicate with parents. Now we talk before every game, he asks me what worries me the most and we discuss it together.”
Mathieu is an aggressive tennis player, by instinct and arithmetic: “We tennis players also look at the numbers, we have to make ends meet, analyzing the stats I realize I score more often if I attack, if I look for the point rather than throw it back in the hope that it will be The other is wrong.”
The match he considers the most important so far “is the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year, I think I did my best. I would say the final: but I lost it, so … the opponent I would like to meet the most? Easy: Whoever is defeated! If we talk about coaching, on the other hand, I would love to share the field with Sinner and Sonego, because there is a professional relationship but there is also friendship.”
The usual idol is Federer (“I always encouraged him, there’s no point in hiding it”), the black monsters Djokovic and Nadal: “I’ve never won with them. Rafa makes you think: “Well, if I play well I can beat him.” But then he always wins. Novak gives you the impression that you are studying all the time, waiting to find the key, the point where it will hit you. So he’s a great receiver, so he gets along well with someone as strong as me.”
But what is the most important thing in tennis: mind, body, technique, tactics?
“Tough question. Can I say they all deserve 25 percent?… Seriously, if you don’t have good technique you won’t reach a high level, but sometimes if you are mentally strong you can make up the gaps. And if you are well prepared. Physically you can hide some flaws and have better possession of the ball and the shots will look stronger than they are. Tactics are important, but to a certain point in sports where you have to think very fast and make decisions in a second and often rely on instinct. So I would say that the mind and the body more important than anything else. Even if it was clear that without the service I find I would not be here….”
With the chant against him, Davis’ daily bread, he has a quiet affair:
“It is permissible. I don’t think Croatia will easily walk away from any point of view tomorrow, but that’s okay. And when it happens to me, I usually charge more, I tell myself I have to show it to everyone. Another thing is real misconduct, and those don’t have to be there. Like haters on the web.”
Alcaraz and Sinner are tennis players at the moment, someone asks him, a bit naively, how he thinks of “slipping” between the two: “Janke and Carlos are great players, and Carlos was instantly shocked by how quickly he recovered after a summer when he started to feel the pressure. But I I don’t aim to “sneak off”: I think I’m already there with them.”
In New York for the first time, coaches were allowed to talk to players during a match. Berrettini doesn’t think it’s a revolution: “I also like to stay inside when I play, it’s okay to give advice from time to time. More than anything, they avoided fines, even large ones, that you took in the past. In New York in 2019 during the quarter-finals with Monfils, for example, I heard the referee warn me just to train, but I was from behind and didn’t even notice Vincenzo was talking to me. I told him to at least make sure the next time you listen to him….”
In conclusion, the goals: for the player as well as for the man. Getting to the finals is difficult, but not impossible, I will try to do everything possible because retiring last year (after the first set of the first match with Zverev, Ed) was one of the worst disappointments of my career, while the first 8 was one of the greatest satisfactions. Then of course I want to win a Grand Slam, because I’m not very far, or the Masters 1000, and improve my best ranking. But I’ve talked about that with my team and I also want to think about enjoying the road, as well as thinking about the finish line.”