© Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour

Matteo Berrettini prepares for his fourth appearance at the Cincinnati ATP Masters 1000 event.

Preview: Berrettini's Future Is Now In Cincinnati

In need of boost in Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, Italian opens against Tiafoe

It’s been one of those years for Matteo Berrettini, the kind where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The Italian kicked off 2022 in style with a career-best run to the Australian Open semi-finals. In February, he retired midway through his first-round matchup with American Tommy Paul in Acapulco due to abdominal woes. After Indian Wells, he sustained an injury to his right hand that necessitated surgery, forcing him to withdraw from the clay-court swing. Berrettini was just getting back into the swing of things on the grass, winning nine straight matches and sweeping back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and The Queen’s Club, when he tested positive for COVID-19. Wimbledon, where he would have been among the favourites, was suddenly out.

“I started to think it was like a prank or something, a joke, because I was feeling pretty good,” said Berrettini, the World No. 15, last week at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers. “It was really tough. I was by myself. I was quarantined. There wasn’t anybody to hug or watch a movie with. It was just me in my room trying not to think about what would happen, think about the future.”

ATP WTA LIVE | Follow the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin In Real Time

For Berrettini, who dropped his opener against eventual titlist Pablo Carreno Busta in Montreal, 6-3, 6-2, that future is now. A big result this week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati would do wonders to put him back in the running for a spot at the year-end Nitto ATP Finals. Currently 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, he’ll have his work cut out for him from the first round. On Tuesday, the 12th seed will open against Frances Tiafoe. He hasn’t faced the American since 2018, when he claimed a 6-3, 7-6(1) first-round decision on clay in Rome.

In addition to a personal-best fourth-round showing at Wimbledon, Tiafoe, No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, has played some of his best tennis this year on home soil, reaching quarter-finals in Houston and Washington, and a semi-final in Atlanta.

“I’m finally starting to play really well again,” said Tiafoe. “I was struggling there for a little bit. Injured earlier this year [elbow]. I was struggling. Wasn’t playing terribly, but wasn’t playing to where I was at the end of last year. From Wimbledon on, I thought I was playing really good tennis, having a lot of great wins, to get that big momentum again.”

FOLLOW THIS WEEK'S ACTION

📺 TV Schedule
🎾 Watch Live On Tennis TV
📱 Follow Live Scores On ATP WTA Live
📧 Sign Up For Newsletters

If anyone knows about injuries, it’s Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. As fate would have it, the multi-Grand Slam champions will meet in the first round in Cincinnati in what will be their 22nd career encounter (Murray owns a 12-9 edge in ATP Head2Heads). The former World No. 1 Murray of Great Britain, of course, has undergone two hip surgeries, while the Swiss Wawrinka has only recently returned after recovering from surgery on his left foot (hence his No. 306 ranking). He’s played just 10 tour-level matches in 2022 (3-7), his best result a Round-of-16 showing in Rome.

Both players have had success on the hard courts of Ohio’s Queen City. Murray took the title in 2008 and 2011, while Wawrinka has reached the quarter-finals or better on four occasions.

The three-time major titlist Murray, currently No. 47 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, is hoping a deep run in Cincinnati will earn him a seeding at the US Open.

Other notable matches on the Tuesday slate include: Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov, Holger Rune vs. Cameron Norrie, Karen Khachanov vs. Sebastian Korda, Aslan Karatsev vs. Brandon Nakashima, and Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Francisco Cerundolo.

More stories like this in: