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Matteo Berrettini has revealed who he would rather face at Wimbledon between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic after the Spaniard announced he intended to play the grass-court Grand Slam for the first time in three years. The Italian reached his first Major final at the All England Club last year where he lost to Djokovic but the Spaniard has started the season by winning the Australian Open and French Open.
Berrettini is one of the most in-form grass players heading into Wimbledon, winning the title in Stuttgart last week in his first event post-hand surgery, and he is now through to the semi-finals at Queen’s this week, where he is the defending champion. But he has shut down the idea he is the favourite at the All England Club ahead of Djokovic and Nadal, and admitted he preferred his chances against the world No 4 despite his unbeaten run at Majors this year.
“I think those two guys showed us so many times that they can win, and they actually won at tournaments, the Slams even though they weren’t in the best shape. Nadal won the Australian Open and Paris after he was injured, so yes I wouldn’t consider myself the favourite, but I like to think that I can win it,” Berrettini said after beating Tommy Paul 6-4 6-2 at Queen’s.
His win came after Nadal announced his plans to play Wimbledon this year, putting the Spaniard in contention for the Calendar Grand Slam. But Berrettini thought that Djokovic was still the bigger threat on the grass despite his only Grand Slam showing this year ending with a quarter-final defeat to the Spaniard.
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“That’s a tough question,” he admitted. “I think on grass Novak for the way I play is tougher to beat, but obviously if you ask me ‘[do] you want to play Novak or Rafa in Paris?’ I would say Novak. It depends about the tournament.”
While he admitted he’d rather face “Rafa over Novak right now” at the All England Club, Berrettini added: “Then I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy to beat Rafa there, but I think Novak will be tougher.”
And the Italian went even further, claiming that beating Djokovic at a Grand Slam was one of the toughest feats in the sport. In the 2021 season he was forced to retire injured at the Australian Open and his three losses at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open all came at the hands of the world No 3.
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Reflecting on his Grand Slam performance last season and his work to learn how to finally beat the Serb, he said: “During my free time and even not during my free time I was with my coach. We sat down and we started to watch the matches and so we were seeing what I did good, what I didn’t do great, when he was doing what he likes to do.
“Probably beating him in a Slam is like one of the toughest things you can ever think to do. Last year, he won three Slams and made the finals in the fourth so it’s not really easy to find a way. But one thing is for sure, every time that I play him in a Slam, I feel I am getting closer and closer because, obviously, the more you play against someone, the more you learn about him.
“Also every time I play against these players, I am improving, even if I am losing a match. So I think it’s about time. Last year was my first ever Grand Slam final, for him [it] was the 30th I think.” Despite lauding a win over Djokovic at a Major as one of the hardest tasks in tennis, he added: “I think I’m not that far, but obviously I know that it’s not that easy.”
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