Berrettini's Physio Optimistic: 'We’re Seeing The 2021 Matteo'
“We’re seeing the 2021 Matteo here at Wimbledon — confident and with huge desire.”
Ramón Punzano, a member of Matteo Berrettini’s team, is delighted to see that the Italian is feeling competitive again on a tennis court, after a return to the second week of a major.
Berrettini has his smile back and, as you would expect, so does his team. In London they have found a harmony that they have been lacking for too long for a player of his calibre.
“It happens in many cases and you don’t know when – or often how – things will pan out,” the Spanish physio Punzano explained of his charge’s renewed form. “We’re coming off the back of a few months that were difficult to manage, looking for solutions to Matteo’s injury problems, and his mind is focussed on competing and on tennis.”
The Italian had started the season optimistically, and his results backed up his positivity, with two wins over Top 10 players in No. 3 Casper Ruud and No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz at te United Cup. However, the fitness problems came back to haunt him when he had to withdraw in Acapulco (during QF vs Rune) and at the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo (before R16 vs Rune).”
Before arriving at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, the 27-year-old Italian returned to competition on the grass swing in Stuttgart, but he suffered a 1-6, 2-6 defeat to his countryman Lorenzo Sonego. It was his first match since April.
Destiny would have it, the draw at Wimbledon matched him with Sonego again in the first round.
“After a period that was hard to endure, we got to London at a difficult time,” Punzano said. “We were faced with a first match against one of his best friends on Tour and there is still a lot of emotion in our team knowing that two weeks back Matteo suffered a painful defeat to Lorenzo.”
Getting To Know Berrettini:
However, Berrettini was quick to snuff out any feelings of uncertainty.
“You know that that moment has to come, but you don’t know when or how it will happen,” Punzano said. “Thanks to everyone’s hard work – that of Matteo first and foremost, of course – he is playing a level of tennis where, as I said to him the other day, we’re seeing the 2021 Matteo here at Wimbledon — confident and with huge desire.”
Berrettini, who was a finalist two seasons ago at the gras-court major, started this year’s event with a comeback against Sonego, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(7), 6-3. He toppled 15th seed Alex de Miñaur in the second round 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and was back to his best in the third round, in which he saw off 19th seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
“Matteo started to feel better, to fancy himself and believe he had a chance”, the physio said. “He started to show more confidence on court, with a very good attitude and enough optimism to be competitive. We know that there is sometimes a fine line between winning or losing, but the positive thing for us is seeing that Matteo is producing his best level in competition.”
That spark that Berrettini was looking for came at Wimbledon, where he has reached the second week in each of his last three visits (2019, 2021, 2023). “That fact helped,” explained Punzano. “We’re in the cathedral of world tennis, a formal tournament where everything is ceremonial. It’s a tournament that consumes you and transports you through the history of this sport and I think that helped motivate him and, of course, it’s a surface Matteo normally feels comfortable on and he likes it.”
The wins are just the tip of the iceberg, under which lie many hours of hard work, frustration, determination and disappointment. Feelings are on the line, when the results don’t match the expectations of a player who reached World No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings last year.
“Matteo has been through difficult moments this month. Fitness issues, not serious but significant enough to rob him of continuity in his game and that is something all players need to be able to produce their best tennis on court,” Punzano said.
This is where Punzano and the rest of the team play a fundamental role in supporting their man. “Mentally, the player needs to be serene and calm, and to feel that the team is close to them, and that we’re doing everything to be able to turn around an uncertain situation like this,” Punzano explained.
“We try to show sympathy and make sure the player feels that he’s not alone in that process, with the whole team being very self-critical and checking what we can improve on or where we’re not doing as well as we would like. Although I have to say that it is Matteo who is very much on the front line, he takes it in and tries to learn and grow to make sure the situation is sustainable at all times. We try to ensure the player has the environment that is most conducive to that.”
That has happened in London and now Berrettini is faced with one of the biggest challenges of the year when he faces World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
“It’s special, for me too as it’s against a Spaniard, who is also currently the No. 1 in the world,” Punzano said. “I think Matteo feels really good and is confident in his tennis, that this is a place where he feels good and where he has already done big things. So he has the confidence required to compete with anyone and believe that he could have a good result.”
Although Alcaraz leads their Lexus ATP Head2Head 2-1, Berrettini’s win came in their only previous encounter at a major (2022 Australian Open).
“Of course, the match will be very difficult, but I’m sure both players think that,” Punzano said. “Also, it will be the first match with a day of rest in between, which is really good for us to recover physically. I think Matteo will be confident of playing the match in peak condition."
As if that weren’t enough, he is playing on a stage that is very special to him, where he came so close to glory. “Here in 2021, we were in the final. It was an incredible week, with many intense experiences and even though it’s just subconscious, it does remind you of that and those moments he had,” Punzano said. “Therefore I think it’s a special tournament for him and for many of us. And, of course, this creates a hotbed for interesting things to happen.”
Finally, in this environment of optimism, before facing his biggest encounter of the season, the question is inevitable. How is Berrettini physically? For the first time in 2023, the Italian has managed to string three five-set wins together at a major.
“Matteo is feeling pretty good,” responds Punzano emphatically. “It has been complicated playing every day and not having days to rest like at any Grand Slam, but the rain has meant he played from Tuesday to Saturday.” To which he adds: “His fitness seems to be what you need for the level of demand we see on tour and we’re happy that he is continuing in that way and that, little by little, he is feeling good and firing on all cylinders.”
Whatever happens on Monday, Berrettini has already achieved a lot more than just a few wins at Wimbledon.