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February 11, 2021 Men's Singles 2nd Round Margaret Court Arena
February 11, 2021 Men's Singles 2nd Round Margaret Court Arena

Berrettini puts aside stress to impress

For a split second on Thursday during his second-round match at Australian Open 2021, Matteo Berrettini had flashbacks to girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic’s titanic tussle against Simona Halep

Tomljanovic — with the crowd roaring her on and Berrettini nervously watching — led the two-time Grand Slam winner 5-2 in the third set on Wednesday only to see the Romanian win five straight games. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 4 at AO 2021

Berrettini took it all in from Tomljanovic’s box, and admitted he wondered whether the same thing might happen to him against Tomas Machac in the fourth set. 

The world No.10 featured on the very same stage, Margaret Court Arena. 

“For a moment I thought about it,” the big-serving Berrettini admitted. “But with my game it's different.” 

Indeed, the Italian suffered no such heartbreak and closed out the Czech qualifier 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3. 

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11 Feb 21

HIGHLIGHTS: Berrettini zips into third round

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Berrettini found it simpler to play than endure the emotional roller coaster of the day before. Tomljanovic so nearly joined her boyfriend in the third round.  

“Beautiful game,” said the Italian. “I don't know if you can say that, but really nice, nice atmosphere. Obviously I was upset for her because she played really good, and it was a matter of a few points. I really wanted her to win. I think she deserved it. But this is tennis. It can be like that.

“It's funny because when I (watch) her I'm probably most stressed than when I play. So I was really tight yesterday night. It's happening when I (watch) her and my brother,” he added, referring to younger brother Jacopo, who is also a tennis pro. “This is actually, I think, something nice.

“And today was different, definitely. The atmosphere wasn't like that. It was less people watching, and obviously she's playing for Australia, so it was different against Halep, a bigger match. But I thought about my game. I thought about playing my best tennis, be in the moment.”

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Berrettini is working back to the fine form he showed in 2019

Berrettini conceded he didn’t find his best tennis against the flashy Machac, who won his first Challenger title in 2020. 

But he walloped 19 aces, 48 winners and saved 12 of the 13 break points he faced. 

This after his dramatic first set of AO 21 when he saved eight set points against two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson. 

“I think my serve, my forehand, my backhand, my return wasn't working the way I wanted to and the way I was trying to, but mentally I was there to tell me that today was like this, and I had to accept it,” said Berrettini. 

“This is an important win for my confidence because when you are winning and you're not playing your best tennis, I think it's a great effort and has to give you a lot of confidence.”

“When I (watch) her I'm probably most stressed than when I play. So I was really tight yesterday night.”
Matteo Berrettini on girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic

Berrettini only played 15 matches last year, hindered by hernia and groin injuries after a breakthrough 2019 highlighted by a semifinal spot at the US Open. 

The 24-year-old focused on fitness in the off-season and told Eurosport he is “feeling really good on the court.” 

That showed in his debut appearance at the ATP Cup at Melbourne Park last week, winning three of his four matches as Italy — now flowing with depth on the men’s tour — reached the final against Russia. 

One of his scalps included Australian Open 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem. 

“For 2019, I'm always saying that everything happened so fast that I didn't even like have the time to realise,” said Berrettini. “I was just going game by game, tournament after tournament. I didn't have any goals. I have to be honest. I wasn't, ‘Okay, now I'm playing for the finals, now I'm playing for the top 10.’ I was just playing. I was just hitting forehands and serves.

“But I think in 2020 I realised what happened, and now I learned a lot from what happened, I can say more mature tennis-wise, you can say maybe wiser.”

And he is looking good for a place in the fourth round at AO 21, since he has never lost to his next opponent, world No.20 Karen Khachanov. 

Berrettini leads the head-to-head 3-0 and won six straight sets against the Russian, who wasn’t part of his country’s ATP Cup squad.  

“I know him pretty well. He knows me, as well,” said Berrettini. “We are the same age. It's going to be for sure a tough one, especially in a Slam, a guy that knows me that much. He's a really good player. 

“It's going to be tough, but in the third round of a Slam I don't think that you're going to play an easy match. I'm really looking forward to play him.”