Matteo Berrettini is the first Italian to reach a Wimbledon singles final and will play defending champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s showpiece event.
AFP Sport picks out three things on the 25-year-old Italian:
Berrettini admits he is far more stressed when he watches girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic’s matches — “my hands become very sweaty” — than when he is immersed in his own.
Sunday will be Tomljanovic’s turn to be stressed as she watches her boyfriend of two years try and become the first Italian to be crowned Wimbledon champion.
Berrettini used the time they were together during the coronavirus lockdown to teach Tomljanovic to cook some of her favourites, including pasta with garlic and chili.
However, it was Tomljanovic who got to pick the Netflix series which were not universally popular with the Italian film buff.
Berrettini says he and 28-year-old Croatia-born naturalised Australian Tomljanovic converse in English except when they have a row and he falls back into Italian.
“We are two quiet people, we share two passions: movies and dogs,” he said.
His influential parents, father Luca and mum Claudia gave the relationship their seal of approval from the outset.
“We are not involved in it; if he is happy, we are happy too,” said Claudia.
Family – first among equals for Berrettini
Like many Italians the family is first and foremost in Berrettini’s heart.
A nerve-wracked Luca, Claudia and his younger brother Jacopo were present on Centre Court to watch his semi-final victory over Hubert Hurkacz.
Jacopo — whose unruly blond mop of hair contrasts to the neatly-clipped dark hair of his brother — has played a pivotal role in Berrettini’s tennis journey.
They are doubles partners from time to time but when they were growing up they used to play pretending to be former or present great players to add drama to their match.
“They are very close,” said Claudia in 2019 of the brothers’ relationship.
“As youngsters Matteo was very sensitive and caring for his brother. He looked out for him.”
Jacopo, who is three years younger, persuaded Berrettini to ditch judo and take up tennis.
“We never forced them,” said Luca. “Matteo gave up tennis for two years, at the time he was playing judo and swimming too, and Jacopo convinced him to pick up a racquet again.”
Berrettini says tennis is in the family’s DNA — his grand-parents still play — and nothing gave him greater pleasure than when both his parents were in Belgrade when he won the Serbian Open this year.
“That one is for my family,” he said in a post on Instagram.
“The first professional victory of mine they have watched live. An honour to play in front of people who have sacrificed so much for me.
Hemingway, Eminem and Leone – a man of diverse tastes
Berrettini is a fan of Fiorentina although he professes not to know too much about football.
He is an avid reader — his favourite book is Ernest Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ though he is also a fan of Charles Bukowski.
He also loves cinema, from Stanley Kubrick to Italian director and master of the ‘spaghetti western’ Sergio Leone to Quentin Tarantino.
Although he likes to listen to a variety of music his favourite is American rapper Eminem.
Had tennis not proved such fertile territory, Berrettini wanted to be a biologist although at school history was his preferred topic — appropriate for a man who has made history for Italian tennis.