Matteo Berrettini is a particularly handy replacement for Team Europe at the Laver Cup London 2022.
To say that Berrettini – confirmed to fill Roger Federer’s singles spot this weekend – has succeeded in the English capital would be an understatement as big as the Italian’s powerful serve.
Berrettini’s list of highlights is as follows: unbeaten on grass in two editions at the Queen’s Club, reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon, then appearing in his first and only Grand Slam final in tennis’ famous SW19 postcode a year ago.
His debut at the 2019 season-ending ATP Finals also took place at The O2, which just so happens to be the venue for this weekend’s Laver Cup.
“It’s one of the most historic cities we have for tennis, and not just tennis,” said Berrettini, who got his first taste of the Laver Cup action in Boston last year. “Personally, I have great memories of Wimbledon. The O2 Arena, I love this arena and I’m sure it will be great to play there.
“Team competition is different. I think it’s even more special because we don’t do those competitions often, so we feel even more pumped.”
Berrettini’s stay in Massachusetts happened to be an eventful one. Not only did he meet his pal Felix Auger-Aliassime, but the pair produced the longest match in the history of the event at two hours and 52 minutes.
Berrettini’s clutch play saw the Roman native save 12 of 13 break points on the opening day and clear a 7-5 deficit at the Laver Breaker. Team World’s only point of the weekend, however, came when John Isner and Denis Shapovalov defeated Berrettini and Alexander Zverev in doubles in another laver breaker to end Day 1.
“I had the best time last year,” says Berrettini. “I was hoping to be back here. The team is incredible.”
Captain Bjorn Borg’s squad includes Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, while the so-called Big Four are joined by Grand Slam finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud – who ended Berrettini’s stint at the US Open this month in the quarterfinals .
“When I watched them as a kid, I cheered them on,” Berrettini says of the Big Four. “So being on the same team is something I can’t really explain and I can’t wait to get started.”
Berrettini is a huge fan of Federer and the 20-time Grand Slam winner has given the 26-year-old a rare, awkward experience in London.
After that second week of Majors, Berrettini faced Federer in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 and was eliminated at their first meeting in an hour and 14 minutes.
He joked to Federer afterwards: “Thanks for the tennis lesson. How much do I owe you?”
Berrettini is certainly open to any guidance he may get from teammates this weekend after receiving tips from Federer at the Laver Cup Boston.
“Probably one of the best things about these things is that they’re all so different,” says the world No. 15. “That way they can give you other advice. After in the dressing room (Federer) was really nice. He said what he thought about the game against Felix and I think it was very helpful for the next games, so I’m really looking forward to that this year.
“If I need energy, I’ll probably ask Rafa,” Berrettini laughs. “If I need some advice on volleys or serve and volley, probably Roger.”
Berrettini himself knows a thing or two about tennis.
In the race for the ATP Finals in Turin, he is in a very respectable 13th place – despite missing around three months due to an injury to his right hand that required surgery.
When he returned in June, Berrettini won his first two tournaments on grass, making him one of the favorites at Wimbledon, but a bout of Covid later ruled him out.
Back in the team environment, he prevailed in all three individual matches at Davis Cup last week to help Italy reach the final stage and is keen to maintain that winning feeling in London.