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Matteo Berrettini's dream season inches closer to an extended run

Matteo Berrettini's dream season inches closer to an extended run

The 23-year-old could become the third Italian man to ever play a year-end championship.

During the late spring of this year, Fabio Fognini joined Adriano Panatta and Corrado Barazzutti as the only Italian men to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.

Come Monday, another one of their countrymen, Matteo Berrettini, will have reached that lofty status after his solid run in Vienna, Austria. It has also put him in prime position to separate himself from Fognini and join the other two as the only Italian men to earn a spot at the ATP’s year-end championships.

While Panatta and Barazzutti didn’t win a round-robin match in their respective appearances in 1975 and 1978, Berrettini—should he qualify—could potentially do some damage at the O2 Arena in London. As the 23-year-old has continually shown throughout his breakout campaign, he’s a threat on any surface, and with his powerful baseline game, he can mount an effective challenge against the players above him in the standings.

His showing in Vienna marks his eighth appearance of 2019 in the semifinals or better of a tournament. It’s also his second in a row after his final-four finish at the Shanghai Masters, where he defeated Top 10ers Dominic Thiem and Roberto Bautista Agut, before Alexander Zverev stopped him. That result came shortly after the biggest moment of the young Italian’s career, when he advanced to the semifinals at the US Open. After going through his first four matches without facing a seeded player, he battled past Gael Monfils in an epic semifinal before falling to the eventual winner, Rafael Nadal.

Berrettini ousts Rublev to reach Vienna semifinals:

Despite having won two titles earlier in the summer on clay and grass, and having worked his way to the 24th-seeded position in the draw, Berrettini’s run in New York was still unexpected. A strong crop of young players, though—from Zverev to US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev to Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s NextGen Finals champion and 2019 ATP Finals qualifier—has been finding a place for themselves in the upper echelon of the standings, and Berrettini can now count himself among them.

Next week, Berrettini will be among the seeded players at the last regular-season tournament of the year, the Paris Masters, as he tries to fend off a slew of challengers for one of the final two spots in London. Seeded 10th his draw is a tricky one: After a first-round bye, he’ll face the winner of Andrey Rublev and former world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, both of whom have won indoor tournaments this fall. Berrettini and Rublev have become quite familiar with each other this year as they’ve faced off three times in 2019, with the Italian just topping him in Vienna.

At the end of the year, any number of young players would be eager to find themselves in the position of potentially extending their season. Having started the year outside of the Top 50, Berrettini has already achieved one rare feat among his countrymen by cracking the Top 10. Another lies within reach if he continues to play at the consistently stellar level he’s displayed through the bulk of the year—a coveted spot among the top eight at the ATP Finals.