Damien Kayat takes an in-depth look at the Wimbledon men's quarter-final between Matteo Berrettini and Felix Auger Aliassime.
2021 ATP Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Wimbledon Tennis Championships
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Men’s semi-final- 7th July
Matteo Berrettini 31/100 | Felix Auger Aliassime 24/10
This looks like the highlight of the men’s quarterfinal draw. I can’t help but feel slightly chuffed going into this match. Prior to the men’s draw, I had picked both of these guys as realistic contenders for this year’s title. They both played brilliantly on the truncated grass-court swing leading into Wimbledon. This is also the side of the draw sans Novak Djokovic. This is a huge opportunity for both of these enormously talented players.
25-year-old Italian Matteo Berrettini was earmarked by many as a potential contender this year. Firstly, he seems to have an affinity for grass courts. In 2019, he won the Stuttgart title without being broken once throughout the entire tournament. That’s insane. It’s one thing to have a mammoth serve and forehand. But to have that much consistency throughout an entire tournament is ominous. He also reached the semi-finals in Halle that season. This year has seen him continue to forge a formidable grass-court identity. He won his first ATP 500 title at Queens and he has been exceptional at SW19. He took some time to adjust to these slightly slower surfaces in his opening match, dropping a set against clay-court specialist Guido Pella. But since then, he has been unstoppable, relishing an admittedly favourable draw and not dropping a set.
The Italian has started to build a strong Grand Slam portfolio. His real breakthrough came with a seemingly unheralded semi-final run at the 2019 US Open. He then showed his all-court prowess with a quarterfinal run in Paris this year. He actually pushed eventual champion Novak Djokovic to four sets. Berrettini has turned into one of the most consistent, all-court players on the tour. There’s something of the Juan Martin Del Potro in him (with perhaps slightly better movement). One aspect of his game that continues to evolve is his net play. He is not averse to the serve-and-volley approach, giving him a plan B should his potent baseline play falter.
Felix Auger Aliassime
This has been quite an astonishing Wimbledon for Canadian tennis, with great friends Felix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov reaching the quarterfinal stage. Felix Auger Aliassime has long been touted as an inevitable successor to the ‘Big Three’. It’s amazing to think that he is still just 20 years of age. I tend to think that some of the expectations heaped on him over the past two years have been slightly unrealistic. It’s as if people thought that some teenager would come and completely destabilize a firmly entrenched tennis ecosystem. The Canadian has played well on all surfaces without making a big impression on the Grand Slam stage. But the one stat that has dogged him the most is his BMT. He has lost eight consecutive ATP Finals- unbelievably without winning a set. That’s fairly incredible considering his talent. Perhaps his 1st Grand Slam quarterfinal run will help instil that final sliver of confidence necessary to become a tour champion.
The Canadian was one of the standout grass-court players leading into this year’s Wimbledon Championships. He reached his 8th career final in Stuttgart prior to a semi-final run in Halle. His decision to collaborate with new coach Toni Nadal seems to be paying dividends. Obviously, Toni Nadal has enjoyed obscene success with son Rafa. I think that level of sustained excellence has rubbed off on the Canadian. He benefited from Nick Kyrgios’ 3rd round withdrawal. But he really showed a greater level of maturity against the 4th seed Alex Zverev. He led the German by two sets, only for Zverev to mount a rousing comeback. The Canadian could have easily wilted at two sets apiece. But he regathered his composure and saw out the match.
Berrettini leads the head-to-head 1-0. He actually beat the Canadian on grass, triumphing in the 2019 Stuttgart final.
Verdict: Nerrettini in four at 49/20
This should be an epic encounter between two exceedingly aggressive players. Both lean into their forehands and look to simplify points. Berrettini will obviously benefit from the experience of twice reaching this stage of a Slam already. The Canadian will also have to deal with the physical hangover of that gargantuan effort against Zverev. Both of these players have dominated on serve thus far. Berrettini has served 67 aces while Aliassime has served 49. Break points will be at a premium and must be swallowed up. I think that the Italian is better equipped to deal with the crunch moments. Berrettini in four at 49/20.