Matteo Berrettini defeated Alexander Zverev at the Rome Masters on Tuesday. The win was big for all the obvious reasons. Berrettini took down the 2017 Rome champion and 2018 runner-up. He beat a three-time Masters 1000 champion, one of the bigger names in the sport. Berrettini won a high-profile match on Italian soil. He built more confidence ahead of Roland Garros, where he will have everyone’s attention.
Those are all the obvious details. A slightly less obvious but still prominent detail of this win by Berrettini is that it puts the Italian at No. 31 in the live ATP rankings.
This story is being written on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Rome time, 1 p.m. New York time. If you are reading this story on Thursday, the landscape might have changed by then, but right now, the only two men with a reasonable chance of passing Berrettini are No. 34 Nick Kyrgios and No. 35 Fernando Verdasco. If the two men, who are in separate halves of the draw, win a few more matches, they would pass Berrettini and could conceivably knock him out of a seeded position at Roland Garros, down to No. 33 in the rankings (outside the top 32).
But WAIT! Kevin Anderson is not going to play in the French Open, so if we are being realistic, even a double-rally by Kyrgios and Verdasco will NOT kick Berrettini out of a seeded slot. The Italian will be seeded in Paris, a terrific achievement reflective of the great tennis he has been playing this year.
That is part of what Berrettini earned with his win over Zverev.
You can see — if you look at the rankings — that Berrettini is not very far ahead of No. 32 and No. 33 on the list. Dusan Lajovic is at 1,316 points, Laslo Djere at 1,314. On Wednesday — after his win over Zverev — Berrettini had 1,320 points. If you read this on Thursday, a Berrettini win (if it happened) would have bumped up his point total, but the win over Zverev carried him past Lajovic and Djere by a single-digit amount of points.
I mention this because part of Berrettini’s rankings climb this year included a challenger tour stop in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. Berrettini won that event and bagged 125 points. The prize money — $21,600 — was not huge, but those rankings points sure were.
That Phoenix challenger event — the Arizona Tennis Classic — made its debut on the ATP Challenger Tour this year. After seeing what Berrettini did at that tournament, and after realizing how that result paid off for him, one would think that this new event in the desert of the American Southwest will continue to have a home in the second week of Indian Wells, on the road to Miami.
You never know what kind of road will lead to Rome or Paris… and a seeded spot at the French Open.