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“Bear Down Berrettini” barrels on bravely

Taylor Fritz and Stefanos Tsitsipas endured inexcusable losses at this U.S. Open. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Hubert Hurkacz, and others joined the parade of ATP pros with high rankings who ought to be doing better, but aren’t.

Against this backdrop of precarity, fragility, and inconsistency, Matteo Berrettini keeps looking better and better.

Had he not contracted COVID-19, he might have been able to make another very deep run at Wimbledon this year. He entered Canada in bad form, looking nothing close to a title contender at prestigious tournaments. Even in the early rounds of this U.S. Open, he was playing far below his best.

Yet, when the bright lights came on for a third-round match with Andy Murray inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, Berrettini was ready.

When he was asked to back up that win in Round 4 on Sunday against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Berrettini wobbled at times but ultimately stayed the course. He beat a Spaniard in five sets at a hardcourt major once again this year. He fended off Carlos Alcaraz in five at the Australian Open in January.

Matteo Berrettini has stacked a lot of quarterfinal-or-better results at majors these past two years. Though not quite in the class of Dominic Thiem when the Austrian was in his prime, and not weighted with the expectations which have been given to major finalists Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, Berrettini has — like the rest of the non-Nadal, non-Djokovic ATP Tour — faced open draws in recent years filled with possibilities and opportunities. A big-tournament ATP draw is no longer a fortress where the Big 3 lock everyone out. Obviously, this U.S. Open is unique because Djokovic has been locked out for non-tennis reasons.

The point remains: Solid pros, players who are getting the most out of their careers, should regularly be planting themselves in major quarterfinals. Berrettini is clearly surpassing the vast majority of his peers in this regard. It’s a testament to an #INNERGAME and a fitness level which enable the Italian to triumph despite the noted weakness of his backhand wing.

He isn’t blowing people out. “Bear Down Berrettini” is managing matches and moments magnificently. Everyone who follows tennis is increasingly becoming aware of this reality. This is how respect is earned on an ATP Tour which is markedly volatile for most … but not Matteo Berrettini.

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