Dybala Tells Berrettini Federer Was His Idol, Too

  • Posted: Nov 05, 2021

As professional athletes, Matteo Berrettini and Argentine footballer Paulo Dybala can relate to the pressure of major finals, crippling pre-match nerves and the elation of competing on the biggest stages.

Dybala is a forward with Serie A club Juventus in World No. 7 Berrettini’s native Italy. And while Italy’s top-ranked tennis player admitted in the past he was an avid fan of rival club Fiorentina, the two discovered in an interview in Italian with ATPTour.com that they shared a common idol: Roger Federer.

“Personally, I never hid that I grew up idolising Roger [Federer]. I liked the way he made everything look easy, almost like Ronaldinho,” Berrettini told Dybala. “The way he was on the court, his elegance, the way he speaks, the vibe he gives.”

The admiration was mutual as the 27-year-old Dybala admitted Federer – alongside his football idol, Ronaldinho – was an athlete he had long looked up to. “Me too,” Dybala said.

“I have skipped a football match a few times to watch his matches instead. Unfortunately I’ve never seen him in person, but I hope I will be able to do it.”

Berrettini, who has booked his second Nitto ATP Finals appearance, has notched a 40-10 record this season, including his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon where he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets. It was his appearance in the championship match on Centre Court, which Dybala was most keen to hear about.

“I had knots in my stomach. I tried to force myself to eat but it was hard to deal with… It wasn’t exactly easy against Djokovic,” Berrettini said. “So I was in the locker room. It was just me and Novak.

“He had already played more than 30 Grand Slam finals so he was definitely more used to it than me, surely he felt tension. He was there relaxing with music in his headphones and I was there like, ‘I can’t even eat some rice. How am I supposed to play?’… I remember my hands were sweating, I couldn’t eat and when I was talking to my team, my head started spinning.

“But then something snaps inside you, 20, 30 minutes before the match, when you start warming up. You feel that adrenaline rush, the desire to win, and you feel like you could beat anyone. You say ‘I’m here because I deserve it’… Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

One point of difference became apparent as the pair’s discussion turned to coaches. Berrettini – who has been under the guidance of Vincenzo Santopadre since he was 14 – was at liberty to prank his coach.

“I almost have a father-son relationship with my coach. We joke, I prank him, I record him while he’s asleep, I wake him up,” he said. “Your problem is that you don’t pay your coach. I pay him, so I can get away with it, you see?”

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