With his back against the wall Saturday, Matteo Berrettini survived to reach the final at the Tennis Napoli Cup. After a slow start, the Italian raised his level on serve to overcome American Mackenzie McDonald 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.
In a hard-fought clash at the ATP 250 event, Berrettini struggled on serve in the first set and was troubled by a foot injury, receiving a medical timeout at 2-5 in the opener.
However, the second seed stuck to the task at hand and slowly turned the match around. He fired 10 aces and struck 30 winners across the second and third sets to advance after two hours and 25 minutes on home soil.
“I don’t even know how I did it,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “I wasn’t feeling very good. I asked for the physio because my foot was hurting. It happened so many times in my career that I had to fight through so many things, not just thinking about the tennis ball. I didn’t want to withdraw. My team told me ‘I think you should stop’. But I tried and I found a way.”
With his victory, Berrettini has climbed to 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin on 2,375 points. The 26-year-old, currently 690 points behind seventh-placed Felix Auger-Aliassime, will need a strong end to the season to give him a chance of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for a third time.
Berrettini, who did not drop a set in his opening two matches in Naples, will face countryman Lorenzo Musetti in the final on Sunday after the 20-year-old maintained his good hard-court form to down Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6- 4.
Musetti reached the semi-finals in his past two tournaments in Sofia and Florence, but he rarely looked in danger of falling at the same stage in Naples, where he found rhythm behind his groundstrokes to dictate play against Kecmanovic. He broke the Serbian’s serve three times en route to an 89-minute win to the delight of the home fans.
“I’m enjoying playing with this beautiful view, on this beautiful court, a lot,” said Musetti after the match. “I think I’m playing my best tennis on hard courts for sure. I’m serving really big, I’ve only [conceded] a break once in three matches and I haven’t lost a set. I’m feeling confident, especially with the serve, and I’m returning pretty well, so I think I did a lot of improvements from last season.”
#NextGenATP star Musetti lifted his maiden tour-level crown in Hamburg in July and is now 29-23 for the season. Currently third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan, he has already secured his spot at November’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the second consecutive year, and will now play for his second ATP Tour title in his maiden ATP Head2Head meeting with his good friend Berrettini.
“Tomorrow we will be rivals for the time on court, and for the time off court we will still be friends, for sure,” said Musetti. “Especially in the last part of the year, we have shared a lot of memories and times together. Especially at the Davis Cup, but even at tournaments we practice a lot together. Even here, today. So we are really close, and tomorrow is going to be a really tough one for both. The winner will take all, but for sure the friendship will remain.”