Matteo Berrettini, the ninth seed at the Australian Open, will be hoping to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the second time in his career, after also reaching that stage at the 2019 US Open. That might look like an ambitious goal for the Italian, but he has been playing good tennis at the start of this season. Might it be a reasonable aspiration as a result?
Matteo Berrettini: His Path to the Semifinals
Stefanos Tsitsipas Waiting in the Fourth Round?
Berrettini will most likely find himself facing two major obstacles should he make his way into the second week in Melbourne. The first is likely to be Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the Greek also in fine form at the start of 2021. In his opener at the Australian Open, Tsitsipas thrashed the veteran French Gilles Simon, dropping just four games in a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 6-1 win. But Berrettini may have reasons to be confident up against the Greek.
He is yet to beat Tsitsipas, having lost to the world #6 in both of their previous meetings, including in the first round at the Australian Open in 2019. But Berrettini did run him close in Melbourne two years ago, ultimately falling just short in four sets, and he has improved since, with his serve, in particular, a formidable weapon.
Rafael Nadal to be his quarterfinal opponent?
If Berrettini is able to overcome Tsitsipas in the fourth round, it would be a surprise were Rafael Nadal not waiting for him in the quarterfinals. That would be a real test for Berrettini, up against a man he lost heavily too in their only previous meeting, which coincidentally came in the 2019 US Open semifinals. However, there might be two factors on his side should they meet in Melbourne.
The first is that Nadal is suffering from a back injury that is clearly affecting him, especially when he is serving. During his match against Laslo Djere, although the 20-time Grand Slam champion won comfortably, he served with less speed than usual and also admitted that it had affected his plus one shot. Thus whilst facing Nadal at his very best would be a huge challenge for the Italian, one he may not be able to surpass, with Nadal struggling physically his chances unquestionably look brighter.
Furthermore, the court speed should also benefit Berrettini. Both Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have talked about the court playing significantly faster than in previous years. Indeed, the Serbian world #1 claimed that the Rod Laver Arena was ‘the fastest it has ever been‘ after his four-set win over Frances Tiafoe.
A Good Start Against Anderson
Berrettini will also have drawn confidence from his performance against the big-serving Kevin Anderson in his first round. He hammered 14 aces past the South African and showed his excellent athleticism in taking one of the points of day two.
In the third set, with Anderson serving down 1-2, Berrettini ran to the baseline to reach a deep lob from Anderson and he returned the ball with an amazing tweener. After that, Anderson tried to end the point in the net with his volley but Berrettini tracked down the ball before making passing shot winner. If he can play more tennis like that, he may take some stopping.
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