From hard to clay to hard to grass courts. From France to Austria back to France and off to Germany.
This packed itinerary outlines what Matteo Berrettini has juggled the past 10 days. You name the surface, Matteo Berrettini has been there. The same can be said for Dominic Thiem, who hosted the Italian at his own exhibition event last week in Kitzbuhel.
Two of the busiest bees during tennis’s reopening will meet in the bettACES grass-court men’s exhibition final, after both advanced Tuesday. Berrettini arrived in Berlin after coming out in top of the inaugural Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), a competition that ran for five weekends at Patrick Mouratoglou’s Academy in Nice. Thiem would finish runner-up to Andrey Rublev in Austria, before heading to his northern neighbor.
Berrettini started slow, but found a way past Roberto Bautista Agut, 4-6, 6-3 [10-6], for the second time in a week. The world No. 8 topped the fellow 2019 Grand Slam semifinalist at Thiem’s 7 tournament on red dirt before returning to France to win the UTS Sunday. In the decisive match tiebreaker, Berrettini won seven of the final eight points, capping off his victory by ending a stunning rally with a forehand rocket out of reach from the diving Spaniard.
“I just love playing tennis. You have to give me a court and I play,” Berrettini said on court afterwards. “I guess that’s the secret. I love grass, actually. I love playing grass in Germany. Last year, I won a tournament, I played semis in Halle.”
Getting his first look at Berrettini’s countryman, Jannik Sinner, Thiem outdueled the 18-year-old, 6-3, 7-6 (5). The key difference came on second serve points, where Thiem won 14 of 19, compared to Sinner’s 14 of 29 success rate.
“I think it was a pretty typical grass-court match. Both of us served very well,” Thiem told the socially-distanced crowd. “I’m coming from clay, from high altitude in Kitzbuhel. It’s very, very different here. I tried to put the ball into the court with the good quality, because I didn’t have enough time to practice and get used to the baseline.”
On the women’s side, Elina Svitolina will take on two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final. World No. 5 Svitolina topped Anastasija Sevastova, 7-6 (2), 6-3, coming in off a strong backhand approach to finish off the Latvian with a closing forehand volley.
“I think it was a good match, lots of good rallies,” Svitolina assessed. “This is kind of like a first match for me. It took a little bit of time to get into the fighting spirit I would say.
“Of course, this year we miss[ed] the grass-court season, so I’m happy just coming back and playing on grass.”
Kvitova was the only player of four to advance after first taking the court Monday. The Czech blew past Kiki Bertens, who received a bye into the final four as a result of her No. 7 ranking, by claiming the last six games of the match for a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
“Definitely it’s my favorite surface to play on, so I’m really glad that I can play here,” said Kvitova. “I played Elina many times, but not on the grass. So I’m really curious how she is playing on the grass. I know she likes when the balls are bouncing low.”
The left-hander defeated Andrea Petkovic in her opener.
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