Tennis: 'I'd have signed in blood': Berrettini on Wimbledon red alert

AFP , Sunday 9 Jul 2023

Matteo Berrettini has Carlos Alcaraz in his sights at Wimbledon after admitting he would "have signed in blood" to play at the All England Club when injury was threatening to derail his career.

Berrettini
Sign in blood : Matteo Berrettini celebrates winning a point against Alexander Zverev (AFP)

 

A barnstorming run through the draw has taken the charismatic Italian into a fourth round blockbuster against the world number one on Monday.

"It's what you want, right? You want to play against the best players in the world. Playing against Carlos, it's always been a pleasure, a great fight," said the 27-year-old Berrettini.

The Italian giant was runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2021 but missed last year's tournament through Covid.

A stomach injury, which restricted him to one match between April and June, pushed him to the brink of another withdrawal.

"When I arrived I wasn't sure even if I was going to play," he said.

"I thought I'm not ready. But then I missed too many events in the last years and I couldn't leave this place without trying.

"This place has something special. I feel a kind of energy I don't feel anywhere else."

Berrettini missed a chunk of the 2022 season with a hand injury before his latest physical issues struck.

He was forced to withdraw from the Monte Carlo Masters after two rounds because of his abdomen injury and sat out a second successive French Open.

His return for the grass-court season saw him slump to a first round defeat in Stuttgart against compatriot Lorenzo Sonego when he managed just three games.

- 'Me against him' -

However, at Wimbledon, the world number 38 has been reborn.

From a set down, he defeated Sonego and then Australia's 15th seed Alex de Minaur, playing over four days as torrential rain swept across London.

On Saturday, he came out on top in a big-hitting duel against 19th-seed Alexander Zverev.

"I spent many days in my bed crying about not being able to play five days in a row," said Berrettini.

"So if they told me a few weeks ago you're going to play five days in a row in Wimbledon, I would have signed with my blood."

So far at Wimbledon, Berrettini has hit 45 aces and saved all the six break points he has faced for a total of 54 unbroken service games.

Hubert Hurkacz, who faces Novak Djokovic in the fourth round, is the only other man yet to drop serve at the tournament.

On Monday, Berrettini comes up against Alcaraz who has yet to hit top gear at Wimbledon, needing four sets to get past Chile's Nicolas Jarry in the third round.

Alcaraz leads the head-to-head with the Italian by 2-1 but all three matches have gone the distance.

Berrettini downed the Spaniard in five sets at the Australian Open in 2022.

"We always give our best. He's No. 1 right now, so he's the best player in the world. It's going to be a great challenge," said Berrettini.

"I remember watching Carlos play at Roland Garros from my TV. Now it's going to be me against him."

Zverev gave Berrettini his endorsement as a potential Wimbledon champion this year.

"I told him that he can win the tournament if he plays like this," said the German.

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