Matteo Berrettini interview: ‘Boris Becker told me the key to winning Wimbledon is learning to relax’

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Matteo Berrettini begins his Wimbledon quest on Tuesday with the approval of none other than Boris Becker.

Berrettini emulated Becker as the first man to win Queen’s on debut, and it proved a memorable summer 26 years ago for the German in which he would go on to win Wimbledon.

The 25-year-old would dearly love to follow suit and the pair brushed shoulders on his first visit leaving practice at the All England Club last week.

“I wasn’t even sure if the guy would recognise me,” said Berrettini. “He walked by and he was like ‘congrats, now we have something in common’ and I was like ‘oh wow’.

“For me, he’s such a legend – I didn’t expect that. I said thanks but then said ‘you still won a little bit more than me – I’ll try to catch up but it’s going to be tough’.”

Both share a rocket of a first serve, Berrettini regularly pounding them down in the 140mph range at Queen’s but Becker’s advice was less about tactics or technique, more about his mental approach to the Wimbledon fortnight.

“He told me to keep my mind easy, don’t lose energy about stuff that’s not important,” he said. “He said ‘if you want a long run here at Wimbledon, you have to be mentally ready so just relax now, switch off when you can and focus on what’s important’.”

Berrettini has tinkered with his mental approach on a surface he had never played on until the age of 17, and likes the speed of it, helping avoid any mental demons creeping in.

“On the clay, for example, you have time to think where you should play, where you should hit the ball,” he said. “On the grass, you don’t have that time.

“From my first practice on grass for Queen’s my coach said ‘you just decide and go’ without overthinking, otherwise the ball is passing your racket. I’m a guy that thinks a lot. On grass, I can’t, I’m just following the flow.”

Whatever the shift of approach, Berrettini has marked himself as a potential disruptor to Novak Djokovic’s supposed march to the title, which would put him equal on a record 20 Grand Slams with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Of being the man to topple Djokovic, the 25-year-old said: “Someone has to be and it would be great if it’s going to be me. I know I have all the confidence and I’m probably playing my best season so far on clay, grass and hard.”

The returning crowds at Wimbledon – it is at 50% capacity throughout this week – could be forgiven for taking umbrage at Berrettini, who beat three British players at Queen’s, including Andy Murray.

“I’d rather have the crowd against me than no crowd at all!” he said. “But I received a lot of support from the British people, it gives me so much energy.”

Berrettini is among the new breed of players in the conversation as potential Grand Slam champions, and was one of the few players to test Djokovic on the Serbian’s way to winning the French Open recently.

Of his chances of becoming a Grand Slam champion in the next two weeks, he points back to his previous Grand Slam best of the semi-finals of the US Open.

“I never won a match there in straight sets and got to the semis really tired,” he said. “I played the guy that was probably fittest on the tour back then…Rafa. Right now, I feel more ready than that.

“I’ve got better physically. At that US Open, I was in a hurricane, I was so happy, I was just trying to keep my feet on the floor. Now I would be wiser in general to face things and play deep into a two-week event.

“Queen’s gave me a lot of confidence about my level, my weapons and the fact is the other players know I’m tough especially on this surface with my serve.”

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