'I Lost Everything': Berrettini's Journey To 'Feeling Alive'
“I just felt alive again.”
Matteo Berrettini said that last month at Wimbledon. After several months of injury struggles that prevented the Italian from thrilling fans with his powerful game, the 27-year-old finally felt like himself. A former finalist at the grass-court major, a run to the fourth round was a victory.
“Just feeling alive, it means that it's you. You're doing it for [yourself] and you're not thinking about anything else," Berrettini told ATPTour.com. "This is what you love to do.
“That's what I lost a little bit [with the] many injuries that I had. I lost the joy for the sport. I lost everything… That's for me what makes me feel alive.”
At his best, the Rome native is a force on the tennis court. His serve and forehand are among the biggest in the sport. But as he struggled physically, those traits meant little.
“Monte-Carlo was really tough for many reasons, because I started to feel good again. I enjoyed the [second-round] match and it was my birthday, and I got injured. I couldn't believe it,” Berrettini said. “I had to miss the clay season again, [the] Rome tournament that for me is really special. So that one was really bad.”
Berrettini made his return early in the grass-court season in Stuttgart. But the Italian was far from top form against close friend and countryman Lorenzo Sonego. Berrettini won just three games in the match and in a jarring scene, he covered his eyes and suppressed tears as he walked off court gingerly.
“I felt not ready, I felt really kind of sad on court and at Queen's [Club] I felt my ab again. So I was like, this is a never-ending story. I saw everything dark,” Berrettini said. “I thought there was going to be no chance that I was going to be able to play again, missing Wimbledon again after last year COVID. [I had] so many thoughts, negative thoughts.”
In that difficult moment, Berrettini relied on his family, girlfriend and team. They helped him find a different state of mind.
“They kind of put me in a position where I had to fight again. And in that moment, you don't really want to fight anymore. You just want to let it go and go somewhere else,” Berrettini said. “But I fought through and that was, I think, the turning point.”
Bouncing back from such a low made Berrettini’s effort at Wimbledon that much more rewarding. After earning revenge against Sonego, the Italian ousted Alex de Minaur and Alexander Zverev in straight sets before pushing eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz to four sets.
“I think with Carlos, he's really good and deserved to win the tournament. But I felt like I could have done better and I just didn't have enough tennis, enough training and he was just better than me on that occasion,” Berrettini said. “Leaving the court thinking about what I could have done better was like a dream a few weeks before. I was like, I wish I could think about what I can improve on court [with] my forehand, backhand, whatever, and not just focus on, ‘Okay, I have to be healthy.’
“That was also a moment of joy even though I lost.”
Although Berrettini is a fierce competitor who wants to win, he was able to put things into context in the days after his loss to Alcaraz. The seven-time ATP Tour titlist was not worrying about his body, but his game.
That is why Berrettini is so happy this week at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto, where he defeated Gregoire Barrere on Monday in straight sets to reach the second round. He will next face countryman and No. 1 Italian Jannik Sinner.
“It feels good, brings back good memories. I didn't play many tournaments in a row in a long time. I'm getting used to it again,” Berrettini said. “The other day, I was thinking about the fact that I kind of lost the travel part, being away from home for a long time, and I'm getting used to it again.
“That's what I do, that's what I like. I like to do what makes me feel happy.”