TENNIS

Preview: Berrettini’s future is now in Cincinnati | ATP tour

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It’s been one of those years for Matteo Berrettini, the kind where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The Italian has kicked off 2022 in style with a career-best run to the Australian Open semi-finals. In February, he retired midway through his first-round match with American Tommy Paul in Acapulco due to abdominal problems. After Indian Wells, he suffered a right hand injury that required surgery, forcing him to retire from the clay swing. Berrettini had only just gotten back into the rhythm of things on grass, winning nine straight games and winning back-to-back titles at Stuttgart and Queen’s Club, when he tested positive for COVID-19. Wimbledon, where he would have been among the favorites, suddenly came out.

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ā€œI started to think it was like a prank or something, a joke, because I felt pretty good,ā€ said Berrettini, the world number 15, last week at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. “It was really hard. I was alone. I was quarantined. There was no one to kiss or watch a movie with. It was just me in my room trying not to think about what was going to happen, think about the future.


For Berrettini, who dropped his opener against eventual starter Pablo Carreno Busta in Montreal, 6-3, 6-2, that future is now. A big result this week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati would do wonders to put him back in contention for a spot in the year-end Nitto ATP Finals. Currently 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, he will have his work cut out from the first round. On Tuesday, the 12th seed will open against Frances Tiafoe. He hasn’t faced the American since 2018, when he won a 6-3, 7-6(1) first-round decision on clay in Rome.

In addition to a personal best in the fourth round at Wimbledon, Pepperstone’s ATP-ranked No. 25 Tiafoe has played some of her best tennis this year on home soil, reaching the quarter-finals in Houston and Washington, and a half-final. final -final in Atlanta.

“I’m finally starting to play really well again,” Tiafoe said. ā€œI struggled there for a little while. Injured at the start of the year [elbow]. I was struggling. I wasn’t playing terribly, but I wasn’t playing where I was at the end of last year. From Wimbledon, I thought I was playing really good tennis, having a lot of great wins, to get that big momentum back.

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If anyone knows the injuries, it’s Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. As fate would have it, the multi-Grand Slam champions will meet in the first round in Cincinnati in what will be their 22nd career meeting (Murray owns a 12-9 advantage in ATP Head2Heads). Former world No. 1 Murray of Britain, of course, had two hip surgeries, while Switzerland’s Wawrinka only recently returned after recovering from surgery on his left foot (from where its ranking nĀ°306). He has made just 10 round-level appearances in 2022 (3-7), his best result in the Round of 16 in Rome.

Both players have had success on the hard courts at Queen City in Ohio. Murray won the title in 2008 and 2011, while Wawrinka reached the quarter-finals or better four times.

Three-time major titlist Murray, currently No. 47 in Pepperstone’s ATP rankings, hopes a deep run in Cincinnati will earn him a top seed at the US Open.

Other notable matches on Tuesday’s list include: Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov, Holger Rune vs. Cameron Norrie, Karen Khachanov vs. Sebastian Korda, Aslan Karatsev vs. Brandon Nakashima, and Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Francisco Cerundolo.

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