The golden age of Italian tennis

The red and the black. Forehand by Matteo Berrettini and backhand by Jannik Sinner, two of the most beautiful shots on the circuit are made in Italy. Abroad they call it the Renaissance and with a bit of irony, or perhaps envy, it is said that in the Grand Slam tournaments everything is becoming “very Italian”. We were not used to all this attention, said Matteo Berrettini last spring during Roland Garros. He then he reached the Wimbledon final and that attention went looking for a while. It was 2016 and the Internazionali d’Italia was celebrating forty years since the Davis Cup victory of the team led by Nicola Pietrangeli and made up of Adriano Panatta, Paolo Bertolucci, Corrado Barazzutti and Tonino Zugarelli. A few days later, in Paris, the same Panatta who was also celebrating his victory at the French Open that year was called to award the winner of that edition, Novak Djokovic. Blue sneakers seemed destined to be this: a name embedded in the gold books, the memory of a faded and nostalgic glory, in black and white. In the absence of alternatives, the one who had been number four in the world in 1976 remained the symbol of Italian tennis outside of Italy, as if nothing after him was really worth remembering. Yet six years later, here is the new young Italy, all in color; tennis no longer lives on the shoulders of giants: Panatta against Borg at the Foro Italico, Zugarelli at Wimbledon, Bertolucci in the final against Nastase, these are all memories that can be retired, replaced by the present, by the future.

The New York Times, in tennis everything is becoming “very Italian”. The ranking also says so, where there are five Azzurri among the 100 best players in the world: Matteo Berrettini (6), Jannik Sinner (12), Lorenzo Sonego (28), Fabio Fognini (62), Lorenzo Musetti (68). Here is the blue dream team, a team in which everyone has their own style and role. From the veteran who for many seasons made only the cabin (Fognini), to the warrior (Sonego), from the predestined (Sinner) to the boy from Carrara for whom American sports commentators have learned the meaning and pronunciation of “beautiful” (Musetti). And then Berrettini, number one, the boy who broke the glass ceilings and made us understand that yes, “yes, it can” and that English grass can be trampled with honor even by a boy from Rome and that even that boy from Rome can win the Queen’s and two weeks later reach the final at Wimbledon, the cathedral of this sport. But let us go in order, in the first light of the new world. In June 2018, Marco Cecchinato reached the Roland Garros semifinals after beating Novak Djokovic in four sets. That was the first turning point, the moment when we realized that the Middle Ages were ending. If you jump onto the field sure to lose, you will surely lose, experts and motivators say. It seems obvious, but basically it is not. For years Italian tennis has been afraid of its own shadow, scared, resigned to its fate of defeats and unfulfilled promises, young talents lost along the way, a life as a midfielder and second and third rounds in the majors, sure to lose. . and therefore losers. The victory of Cecchinato, who in that year was coached by Simone Vagnozzi, who today trains Sinner, reversed the trend, giving him and his teammates the right to have courage and confidence. As victories are contagious and enthusiasm spreads, the Azzurri have begun to show their teeth, or at least convince themselves that they have a chance to show them. Cecchinato defined it one day as a virtuous circle, “you see your teammates win, you get excited, you also want to win, you understand that you can”. Since then, there is Fognini’s victory at the ATP 1000 in Monte Carlo, Matteo Berrettini’s semifinal at the US Open, his entry among the best in the world and his debut at the ATP Finals, the tournament in which only eight can play. top. tennis players of the season, there was the advent of Sinner, the boy who according to Riccardo Piatti’s prophecy “would rise up there”, or in ranking places that always seemed inaccessible to Italians; The victories of Sonego came to Rome, his match in the most famous Center in the world against Roger Federer, during Manic Monday, the most important Monday in tennis, the one in which the first qualifying rounds of the Championship are played, and then Musetti in the launch. pad. Sometimes the prophecies are also fulfilled in a positive way. This is what you see, what the cameras and statistics capture. Behind it there is a capillary work throughout the country, a long-term project at last, there are resources, investments, partners. We always start from the territory, from the provincial clubs: before it seemed like a forbidden dream, today even then it is allowed to think big. Umberto Rianna is the leader of the Federation’s 18+ project.

In addition to following Berrettini as assistant coach, he is always in the players’ boxes during the biggest tournaments. “Italian tennis has always suffered from clichés. We have always underestimated ourselves. Also in the past there have been great talents like Filippo Volandri, the current Davis captain, and let’s not forget Andreas Seppi, a great example. Of course, what we are experiencing now is an extraordinary season of talent and it is incomparable to any other time, ”says the coach, who before returning to Italy he also worked in Florida with Nick Bollettieri, the master of all masters. “There really aren’t many secrets. Before, there was the center of Tirrenia where the most promising young people were trained and many times after the age of 18 they were abandoned, or lost on the road. Today, with the Higher Training Institute directed by Michelangelo Dell’Edera, it was decided to make a strong commitment to private teams, allowing them to grow. We want to be a point of contact between the federation and the coaches with the sole objective of helping the boys in the delicate transition to professionalism.

Leave a Comment