Team Italy failed to reach the semi-finals at the ATP Cup to start 2022, but it was only a matter of time before Italians left their mark on the new season. Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner did not take long.
Both Berrettini and Sinner advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, where they will have the chance to make more history for their countries. If both men advance to the last four, it will be only the second time that several Italian men reach the semifinals at the same Grand Slam. The last time that happened was in 1960 at Roland Garros, where Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola delivered the feat. No Italian duo has done it in the Open Era.
But what is perhaps most interesting about Berrettini and Sinner is their unique games, paths and personalities. They are similar in some ways – both men have powerful games and the utmost respect from their peers on and off the court. However, they are not cut from the same Italian stone.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, who plays against Sinner in the quarterfinals, compared the two Italians.
“I would consider Matteo more of a heavy server than Jannik, meaning he generates more power and precision with his serve and gets more free points than Jannik,” Tsitsipas said. “Jannik, I would consider [the] more talented player from the baseline. [He] looks like he is very relaxed when he plays. Doesn’t show much tension when there. Quite cold-blooded compared to Matteo, who looks a bit more emotional.”
Photo Credits: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
That was in no way a little bit of Berrettini. In terms of personalities, Berrettini is closer to fire and Sinner closer to ice. Berrettini is quicker at uttering a big roar and fist pump than Sinner, who stays closer to a flatline through the highs and lows of a match. Matteo also praised the maturity of his compatriot.
“Jannik is so young, but at the same time so much older. He knows how to have fun, but also how to put work into it at the same time,” Berrettini said. “I think what he’s doing is impressive, but I think it’s because of his attitude and the way he goes through things. He’s really mature in that way and that’s one of the reasons why he’s getting crazy results.”
In a way, Berrettini, who will play Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals, has paved the way for Sinner to follow. After Fabio Fognini became the third Italian to reach the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP ranking in 2019, Matteo soon followed his way to the US Open semifinals later that year. He hasn’t fallen out of the top 10 since then.
By making it to the last eight at Melbourne Park, 25-year-old Berrettini has now made at least the quarter-finals at all four majors. Another win would put him in joint second place with Adriano Panatta for the most Slam semi-finals in Italian men’s history.
“It means I’m doing amazing things that I never thought I could do when I was younger. I always remember being here, playing in the juniors and thinking maybe I was going to play qualies. I don’t know,” Berrettini said. “So it’s a good feeling.”
It’s easy to forget, but Sinner is only 20 and reached the Top 10 last November. When Berrettini was that age, he had never been in the Top 500 in the world.
Sinner spent much of his early years in more than one sport. Hailing from San Candido, near the Austrian border, he was one of the best skiers of his age in all of Italy. But when Jannik turned to tennis in his early teens, he hasn’t looked back. Even now, Sinner is fully focused on the future and, most importantly, improving every day.
After Team Italy was eliminated from the ATP Cup, the world No. 10 gave a very experienced response when a reporter asked what his plans were for the week leading up to the Australian Open.
“I don’t know yet,” Sinner said, before smiling. “But I think I have to practice every day.”