Looking to tighten his grip on one of the remaining qualifying spots for the Nitto ATP Finals, Italian, Matteo Berrettini targets a quarter final spot in Vienna when he faces fellow US Open semi-finalist, Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday.
At the start of the week, Berrettini occupied the eighth and final qualifying spot for the season-ending finals, but he is far from assured a spot in London, with a long chasing park breathing down his neck. He was just 40 points ahead of ninth-placed Roberto Bautista-Agut, and 200 clear of David Goffin in tenth heading into the twin ATP 500 tournaments in Basel and Vienna. There is very little margin for error in the penultimate week of the ATP regular season.
With Alexander Zverev suffering a first round defeat in Basel on Tuesday, Berrettini has got an opportunity to leapfrog the German into seventh on the race with a strong run in Vienna, setting himself nicely for next week’s Paris Masters, when the final spots of an intriguing race will be decided.
London qualification would have been far from Berrettini’s agenda at the start of the season, which he began just outside the top-50, but he has accelerated up the rankings through the year to a current career-high ranking of 11th. The Italian has claimed two titles in 2019, in Budapest and Stuttgart, while he made a final in Munich (lost to Cristian Garrin), but his most memorable run came arguably at the US Open, where he reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final. Berrettini has also contested semi-finals in Sofia, Halle and most recently in Shanghai, where he advanced to the last four of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time in his career.
The 23-year-old opened his Vienna campaign with a three-set victory over Kyle Edmund on Monday, rallying from a set down to score a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over the Brit in just over two hours. The Italian was slow off the blocks against Edmund, dropping his serve early and requiring the trainer to attend to an ankle problem, but he got better as the match progressed, striking ten aces and saving four of the five break points he faced.
He’s got an intriguing second round meeting with Grigor Dimitrov, who has been in a lull since making the semi-finals of the US Open.
Dimitrov’s troubles in the last couple of seasons have been well-documented, but he appeared to have turned a corner with that fine run at Flushing Meadows, which included a five-set win over Roger Federer. However, he has since slipped into his pre-New York form, winning just two matches in the four tournaments he has played since the US Open.
That US Open run completely dwarfs every other thing Dimitrov has done (or not done) this season, with his other noteworthy results being a fourth-round showing at the Australian Open, and a quarter final in Brisbane at the start of the year. The 28-year-old is 18-19 for the year, and has failed to cross the first round in ten tournaments this season. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals titlist, and former world No. 3 was ranked 78th before the US Open, but he shot into the top 30 after Flushing Meadows, and is currently ranked 29th in the world. His form has not been good since New Yok, and he will be looking to change that in Vienna.
The Bulgarian defeated Daniel Evans in Chengdu in his first match after the US Open, but he then lost his next three matches, exiting Beijing and Stockholm in the opening rounds, before returning to winning ways in Vienna, where he took out Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur 6-3 7-5 in the first round. Despite being broken three times in the match, Dimitrov was always in control of the contest during which he served six aces, won 79% of his first serve points, and converted five of the eleven break points he created.
Dimitrov is making his second appearance in Vienna, and he has already bettered his performance from his first visit from the 2018 season, where he fell to Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round. Now he seeks just his fourth quarter final of the season when he confronts Berrettini on Wednesday.
He defeated Berrettini in their only previous meeting in Monte Carlo earlier this year, and he does possess the variety, athleticism and defence to make this awkward for the Italian- if he reenacts the sort of form that propelled him to the US Open semi-finals, and once pushed him to No. 3 in the world. However, the former world No. 3 has had so many losses this season that he has become very difficult to back. Berrettini on the other hand has got his sights set on London, and provided he serves as well as he can, I think he will be too powerful for the Bulgarian.
Matteo Berrettini vs Grigor Dimitrov is live from Vienna on Wednesday, 23 October from 5:30pm local time/ 4:30pm BST