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Wimbledon: Berrettini treads where no Italian has

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Grass courts, due to their variable bounce, are anathema to Italian tennis players, who are brought up on the slow clay courts of their Mediterranean country. Matteo Berrettinis entry into the final of the Wimbledon Championships, therefore, is quite an achievement.

“I have no words, really. I need a couple of hours to understand what happened. I played a great match. My family is there, my team. I never dreamt about this because it was too much,” the world No. 9 Berrettini, 25, had said after his semi-final win on Friday evening.

Coach Vincenzo Santopadre, who has worked with Berrettini for 11 years, said they wanted to turn him into an all-round player, not just a clay-court specialist.

“We were able to build a complete player. In my opinion, a lot of coaches try to specialise players too soon when they are young. Instead, when Matteo was young, aged 14, 15, 16-year-old, we wanted to build a player who could play on every surface. We wanted him to be able to play attacking and defensive tennis, have every shot, such as a backhand slice. I think he is a complete player,” said Santopadre to atptour.com.

Even if Berrettini loses, the seventh-seed will return home with head held high. If he wins, he will only be the second Italian male player since the Open Era began — in 1968 — to win a Grand Slam title.

Adriano Panatta had won a Grand Slam title in 1976 but it happened on the clay courts of Roland Garros.

Before Panatta reaching the final, there have been only four semi-final appearances from Italian male players. Three of those, including Panatta’s have been on the clay courts of Roland Garros. The only other non-clay court semi-final played by an Italian was by Corrado Barazzutti at the 1977 US Open.

Apart from the above, there have been only four other quarter-final appearances by Italian male players and unsurprisingly, they have all been at the Roland Garros.

Even among Italian women players, no one has done well on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

The best finish at Wimbledon by an Italian player has been the quarter-final by Silvia Farina in 2003.

There have been two Italian women Grand Slam winners – Flavia Pennetta at the 2015 US Open and Francesca Schiavone at the 2010 French Open.

Berrettini’s best finish in a Grand Slam before this was the 2019 semi-final at US Open. He turned pro in 2015 and his fairly young career has seen him win five ATP titles, with the biggest of them all – Queen’s Club Championships — coming just a week before this year’s Wimbledon began.

If he beats Djokovic, he will do what no one else has been able to do for the last four-plus years – break the stranglehold of the big three – Roger Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal — on Grand Slam events.

–IANS

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