Hammer Time: Matteo Berrettini captures inaugural UTS championship

Hammer Time: Matteo Berrettini captures inaugural UTS championship

The Italian, playing his fourth match in two days, survived Stefanos Tsitsipas in a sudden-death tiebreak to capture the crown.

Say what you will about Patrick Moroutoglou’s unorthodox new league, but Sunday’s Ultimate Tennis Showdown final was electric in every possible way. Matteo “The Hammer” Berrettini, who played two matches yesterday in Dominic Thiem’s Austrian exhibition, outlasted Stefanos “The Greek God” Tsitsipas, saving two match points in sudden-death to capture the inaugural championship. 

Nicknaming a player “The Greek God” seems more acceptable when that player pulls off numerous Herculean feats, just like Tsitsipas did all season. The Greek was just one point away from winning four consecutive matches after falling down two-quarters to none. But if we’ve learned anything about Greek Mythology, it’s to honor the gods. Perhaps an overly confident Tsitsipas offended the tennis gods after forcing sudden-death and saying with a smile, “the gods were with me.” 

The match itself couldn’t have been closer. Tied at 15 points a piece with no time remaining in the first quarter, Berrettini pulled off the tennis equivalent of a buzzer beater, striking several huge forehands to secure the quarter victory. 

Though matches are limited to just one hour, the rapid paced format takes a physical toll on the competitors, who were completely drenched in sweat before the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Berrettini once again executed his +3 UTS card, which awards three points for a clean winner. Up two quarters and leading the third four points to none, Tsitsipas turned the tides with a crucial second serve ace while using his own +3 card. 

Tied at 12 points with just 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Tsitsipas would come up clutch with the shot of the day, a marvelous crosscourt backhand pass to force a forth quarter.

Tsitsipas would go on to dominate a discouraged Berrettini in the fourth quarter 15-8. The Greek had his chances in the sudden-death tiebreak, but mis-hit an easy forehand pass to gift Berrettini a match point. The Italian closed out the match with a brilliant running crosscourt forehand passing shot. 

Given Berrettini’s hectic four-match weekend schedule, Tsitsipas was certainly the favorite in the final, but Berrettini credits his increased maturity for the win. 

“One of the biggest qualities a tennis player can have is the ability to adapt,” Berrettini said. “I think I did a good job doing that this week.”

When asked if he would play in the US Open this September, Berrettini was optimistic but wouldn’t commit one way or another. “I think there are a lot of questions the big tournaments have to answer with the quarantine and travel issues. I am going to think about my health and my tennis and then decide.”