Matteo Berrettini is an especially handy alternate for Team Europe at Laver Cup London 2022.
To say that Berrettini—confirmed as filling Roger Federer’s singles spot this weekend—has thrived in the English capital would be an understatement as big as the Italian’s mighty serve.
Berrettini’s list of highlights go as follows: undefeated in two editions at Queen’s Club on grass, reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon, then appearing in his first and only Grand Slam final at tennis’ famous SW19 postcode a year ago.
His debut at the season-ending ATP Finals in 2019 also came at The O2, which just happens to be the venue for this weekend’s Laver Cup.
“It’s one of the most historical cities we have for tennis, and not only for tennis,” says Berrettini, who got his first taste of Laver Cup action last year in Boston. “I personally have great memories of Wimbledon. The O2 Arena, I love that arena, and I’m sure it is going to be great to play there.
“Team competition is different. I think it’s even more special because we don’t often play in these competitions, so we feel even more pumped.”
Berrettini’s stint in Massachusetts happened to be an eventful one. Not only did he encounter his pal, Felix Auger-Aliassime, but the pair produced the longest match in the event’s history at two hours, 52 minutes.
Clutch play from Berrettini saw the Rome native save 12 of 13 break points and overturn a 7-5 deficit in the Laver Breaker on the opening day. Team World’s only point during 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 here again. The team is unbelievable.”
Captain Bjorn Borg’s roster features Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, with the so-called Big Four joined by Grand Slam finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud — who ended Berrettini’s stay at the US Open this month at the quarterfinal stage.
“Watching them as a kid, I was cheering for them,” Berrettini says of the Big Four. “So being on the same team, it’s something I cannot really explain, and I cannot wait to start.”
Berrettini is a massive fan of Federer, and the 20-time Grand Slam winner authored a rare, unpleasant experience in London for the 26-year-old.
After making that second week of a major, Berrettini put Federer in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 and exited in a quick-fire one hour, 14 minutes in their first meeting.
He joked to Federer afterwards, “Thanks for the tennis lesson. How much do I owe you?”
Berrettini is certainly open to any guidance that comes his way from teammates this weekend, having been given tips by Federer at Laver Cup Boston.
“Probably one of the best things about these things is that everyone is so different from each other,” says the world No.15. “So they can give you different advice. After in the locker room, (Federer) was really nice. He said what he thought about the match against Felix, and I think it was really helpful for the next matches, so this year I’m really looking forward to it.
“If I need energy, I’ll probably ask Rafa,” laughs Berrettini. “If I need some tips about volleys or serve and volley, probably Roger.”
Berrettini himself knows a thing or two about tennis.
He sits at a very respectable 13th in the race to the ATP Finals in Turin — despite missing roughly three months with a right-hand injury that necessitated 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 subsequently ruled him out.
Back in the team environment, he prevailed in all three of his singles matches at Davis Cup last week to help Italy reach the last stage, and is keen on maintaining the winning feeling in London.