Berrettini’s Back! Italian Battles Past Albot In Stuttgart
Matteo Berrettini celebrated his first competitive match since undergoing hand surgery in March with victory over Radu Albot at the BOSS OPEN in Stuttgart on Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t just the 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 result that had the Italian feeling satisfied at the German ATP 250 event.
“I feel good, physically especially,” said second seed Berrettini after seeing off an Albot comeback to seal the second-round win. “I didn’t take it for granted that I was stepping out and feeling good, especially after a surgery. I’ve never had one [before]. I’m really happy, I played three sets, so I’m feeling good.”
Berrettini underwent a minor operation on his right hand in late March after opening his 2022 season with a 9-6 match record that included a run to a third Grand Slam semi-final at January’s Australian Open. He holds fond memories from Stuttgart, where he lifted the trophy in 2019, but he was made to battle to maintain his unbeaten record at the grass-court event.
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A fast start from Berrettini saw him break the Moldovan qualifier’s serve twice to ease to the opening set, but the Italian was pegged back in the second as the World No. 121 rallied to level the match. Berrettini crucially fended off two break points to hold in the first game of the third set and took control from there to seal a hard-fought one-hour, 53-minute win.
“Obviously it wasn’t easy, especially mentally,” said Berrettini. “When you’re not playing a lot, you lose the rhythm a little bit. That’s why I struggled a little bit in the second set, but in the first games in the third I fought hard. I felt like I had to be there, I had to fight, and I’m happy to be through.”
Berrettini’s comeback will continue with a quarter-final clash with fellow Italian Lorenzo Sonego or home favourite Jan-Lennard Struff. The 26-year-old, who is a two-time Tour titlist on grass and reached a maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last year, is pleased to be making his return on a surface he relishes.
“The grass is always one of my favourite parts of the season, so I’m [happy] to be here enjoying the grass and I’m pretty sure my level is going to get better and better,” said Berrettini. “Today was the first important step.”
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Also on Wednesday, Benjamin Bonzi claimed a 7-6(3), 6-2 win in an all-French clash with Arthur Rinderknech. Both players came into the match with a 2-2 tour-level record on grass, but it was Bonzi who raised his level to claim the first-set tie break before breaking twice in the second set to seal victory. He next faces fourth seed Denis Shapovalov or Oscar Otte.
In the remaining first-round match to be completed at the ATP 250 event, Nikoloz Basilashvili clinched the two games he needed against Lorenzo Musetti to book a second-round meeting with Nick Kyrgios.
Play was suspended due to rain on Tuesday evening with fifth seed Basilashvili leading the Italian by a set and 4-2, and he held his nerve upon resumption on Wednesday to complete a 7-5, 6-3 victory and reach the second round in Stuttgart for the third time.