Matteo Berrettini finally erased the painful memories of his Covid-19 enforced withdrawal from Wimbledon last year with a thumping 6-3,7-6,7-6 win against Alexander Zverev in 2hrs 27mins on Court No1 to set up a blockbuster fourth round clash with Carlos Alcaraz, the top seed.
Berrettini has only played, due to injury, 17 matches this year and after defeating 19th seed Zverev said he was going to have “ a day off, some pasta and prepare for Carlos.”
Berrettini is a proven winner on grass, a former Wimbledon finalist and Queen’s champion and despite holding a 4-1 career advantage in previous meetings, Zverev knew he was facing one of the best on the surface. The Italian’s serve is a key weapon and now that he has regained full power it underpinned this straight sets victory.
It will be a major factor in his attempt to knock out Alacaraz and he added:“ I played Carlos two years ago and I said then that this kid is special. It feels unbelievable to win and I didn’t think it could happen and it must be something about this place. I love being here and I still haven’t healed from the withdrawal. This tournament changed my life.
“I spent many days crying in my bed not being able to play (because of injuries) – it’s true. That is why I find extra energy for these matches and I have played five days in a row.”
This was a nightmare contest for the baseline officials with neither player looking to get up the court and shots peppered the line throughout. It was tennis at its most muscular with Berrettini bringing some variation to the power play with his sliced back hand.
The reason a contest of this quality was being staged in the third round rather than the latter stages was due to both players having been forced to overcome injury problems which has damaged their rankings. Both should be sitting comfortably inside the top 10 of the sport and there were clear signs under the Court One lights that they will be regaining that status soon.
Zverev suffered a serious foot injury at Roland-Garros last year while Berrettini has been troubled by leg and stomach injuries and came into Wimbledon ranked No38.
The Italian finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon two years ago and then had to deal with the bitter disappointment of contracting Covid-19 on the eve of the 2022 tournament. Zverev reached the Wimbledon the fourth round in 2017 and 2021 but had any lingering confidence from those runs dented by a rapid 33 minutes first set loss 6-3 as Berrettini showed his full ranger of power shots.
The rain forced the players off at 4-4 in the second set and they returned under the roof with Berrettini continuing to serve with real venom and a 130mph ace clinched a tight second set on the tie break.
The pattern of the match continued to revolve around the Berrettini serve and what effect, if any, Zverev could have to manufacture an all important break and keep the match alive. It was the German’s heavy ground strokes that kept him in the battle and he dragged Berrettini across the baseline in a bid to expose any lingering fitness problems.
Clearly fired up by being back on the surface that suits his game, Berrettini not only showed his fitness was solid but matched Zverev shot for shot, forcing a key mistake to hold serve at 6-5. With Zverev refusing to buckle, it was inevitable the set would once again have to be decided on the tie break and Berrettini served first.
A long rally ended with a baseline challenge by the Italian which failed and Zverev had the early break only to dump his forehand into the net and give away ,the advantage. He lost his other serve to a poor back hand volley into the net and with both players feeling, the pressure, Berrettini double faulted – the first of the set.
Berretinni created three match points with Zverev hitting an ace and then the Italian netted a back hand passing shot to leave him one more chance which he duly took with a blistering 127 mph ace out wide.