Matteo Berrettini’s resilience–and, of course, his monstrous serves–bailed him out in a very tough third-round match, that could have gone either way in the end. This win should certainly boost his confidence more than ever, as Ilya Ivashka was his first real test, and he passed it–however, only barely.
The match promised to be an entertaining one. Matteo Berrettini, after playing the Wimbledon final, was out of competition for a while. He reached the third round, where he faced off against Ivashka, who had found excellent form after bagging the title at Winston-Salem. Though their rankings show a big difference, there was barely a difference in the quality of play, as Ivashka gave Berrettini a very tough fight.
Matteo Berrettini vs Ilya Ivashka
The first set perfectly shows how close the match was. Though both were not at the top of their games yet, they managed to put up an entertaining serve-fest. It was all about who makes an extra shot in the first set, as both of them were serving superbly. So many times in the set, the serve got them out of sticky situations. Only one break point came in the set, which Ivashka saved with ease. Berrettini and Ivashka fared pretty much the same in all the stats. Ivashka hit six aces to Berrettini’s seven and committed two double faults. While Berrettini won more points off the first return, Ivashka won more from the second return. All in all, it was an extremely close-set, and in the end, one minibreak made the difference.
In the second set, Berrettini faced a scare when he faced break points twice in his first game. He did very well to fire aces when he needed them most. After saving two break points in the first game, the next two games went on without much action. It appeared as though this set would go the distance as well, until the fourth game, when there was a sudden increase in unforced errors from Ivashka. Berrettini has a knack for raising his game to a whole new level when his opponent starts missing. He did just that in the second set, and then closed it out 6-2. This set showed a drastic contrast in the stats. Berrettini hit six aces and 13 winners, while Ivashka managed one ace and three winners.
The third set started with Berrettini dominating play in the first game itself. He carried the form from the second set here. Ivashka, on the other side, also didn’t lose the plot altogether. This will be one of the biggest takeaways for him. Two games in the third set, Berrettini was into his groove and had started dominating play. But suddenly, the errors crept back into his game, and the duo was back at the tussling. What Berrettini did perfectly in the third set is that he peaked at the right time. Ivashka was serving at 15-all at 4-5, and it wasn’t a difficult task for him to hold and take the set to the tiebreak. But Berrettini had other ideas, as he suddenly turned the heat on Ivashka, pushing him deep in the court and playing aggressively. To finally win the set, he did what he does so well.
The way the fourth set turned out couldn’t have pleased Berrettini at all. Not only did he lose it, but he messed up some shots horribly. Also, Ivashka exploited his backhand weakness in this set. Berrettini had to struggle to hold his serve from the first game itself. Ivashka overpowered Berrettini’s backhand in this set. Berrettini prefers to slice even the slightest high balls on his backhand. His slice wasn’t polished enough to tackle Ivashka’s attack. Ivashka kept hitting deep and didn’t have to take extra efforts as Berrettini messed up on his own. Both the players hit an equal number of winners, but Ivashka made just two unforced errors, which increases to a jaw-dropping 15 from Berrettini. In the last two games, Berrettini had seemingly given up and was already preparing for the decider.
The fifth set saw a rejuvenated Berrettini testing a tired Ivashka. Berrettini had shaken off any negative thoughts and was clinical on serve. He broke Ivashka right away in the second game and then was content to hold serve, to finally close out the set 6-3. Berrettini hit four aces in the fifth set, and Ivashka two. Two double faults came from each player, and all the stats were a close competition. Ivashka made five unforced errors, and Berrettini made 8. Where Berrettini really got the better of Ivashka was the winners. He hit nine winners, while Ivashka hit just one. Only one breakpoint came in the set, and Berrettini converted it to win the match. Tennis is a game of fine margins indeed.
Though it could have gone either way in the fifth set, Berrettini was always the favorite in a five-setter, due to his superior fitness, and better performance in longer rallies. It was almost like he used the whole fourth set to take a break before coming back full tilt in the fifth. This is a good tactic if solely used for that purpose. But, it costs the player a set, and Berrettini would have been sent packing if he hadn’t come back to his level. Nevertheless, such small things get forgotten in a win.
When at his peak, Berrettini has very few causes of concern. With the humongous serve and cracking forehand, he is practically unstoppable when in form. But still, his backhand is a little weak. Berrettini immediately switches to the slice when the ball is placed to his backhand if he doesn’t convert, which he does dangerously often. That backhand slice is pretty snappy and handy and troubles opponents, but it becomes a weakness rather than a weapon when he makes so many errors on that shot.
But we have to consider the fact that Matteo Berrettini never really got going. His error count was unusually high (64), and still, he managed to come through. The first set was his for the taking, all he had to do was not play too safe. According to the stats, he has made a high amount of errors in even those sets which he won easily. His style of play is aggressive. He shouldn’t try to play safe. Practice will iron out the flaws, but to win, he has to take risks, as he did in the second set or the last game in the third set. He smashed 27 aces and 69 winners in the match. Aggressive tennis suits him, and he should stick to it.
Main Photo from Getty.