Matteo Berrettini walked onto Centre Court on Monday at the All England Club with more grass-court wins in 2019 (12) than anyone. But his opponent was Roger Federer, who showed why he is an eight-time Wimbledon champion.
Federer dominated the 23-year-old Italian 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just one hour and 13 minutes, advancing to his 17th quarter-final at The Championships.
"Today was excellent. I was very happy," Federer said. "I was expecting a tough match and a close one with not many chances. It was actually quite the opposite, so that was great."
The 37-year-old Swiss lost his first set of the fortnight against 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals alternate Lloyd Harris, the first time he dropped a set in his first-round match at Wimbledon since 2010, when he came from two sets down against Alejandro Falla. But since, Federer has rolled, winning 12 consecutive sets.
Federer is trying to break his own record by lifting his ninth trophy at The Championships. But first, if he defeats Kei Nishikori in the last eight, he will earn his 100th Wimbledon victory, becoming the first player in the Open Era to earn 100 match wins at a Grand Slam tournament.
"I think it's going to be tough, plus he's getting into quarters with a lot of energy. I remember some of the Slams recently he arrived into the later stages with maybe some tough matches going into it. So far it's been really easy for him," Federer said. "I think he's ready. I'm a big fan of his game. I think he's got one of the best backhands in the game that we have right now. He's a great return player. Solid mentally. I always thought he was a great talent."
Match Stats: Federer vs. Berrettini
Player Winners Unforced Errors
Roger Federer 23 5
Matteo Berrettini 14 23
Federer set the tone early by blocking almost all of Berrettini’s thunderous serves right back into play. And throughout the match, once he neutralised the Italian’s serve, he found himself in a strong position in rallies, attacking the No. 17 seed’s backhand and coming to net when the opportunity presented itself.
"He didn't have his best day. I know that, as well. I was dialed in. I was able to get a lot of balls back, I think because of the conditions as well. I think if it would have been faster, then again we would have seen the match that I was expecting with few chances here and there," Federer said. "I was just able to maybe outmanoeuvre him with my slice. He couldn't hurt me enough with his forehand, which I thought was going to be maybe tough to manage today. Everything seemed to go easier.
"Eventually you know how it is, when you're down two sets to love so quickly, I mean, it's hard to figure things out. It's hard to change. I just think the conditions also didn't allow him to do that today."
Berrettini held to love in his first service game, but his success on serve did not last longer than that. Federer broke for 3-1 in the opening set by crushing an overhead smash, and Berrettini then made a backhand error to hand the second seed a second break in the opener.
Federer had his third break chance of the match at 1-1 in the second set. And although he did not get much pace on an approach shot, Berrettini missed a crosscourt forehand passing shot wide to give the World No. 3 the break. After Berrettini dumped a forehand into the net to give Federer another break, the Swiss took a two-set lead after 46 minutes with a heavy forehand to force an error.
If Berrettini was going to follow in Kevin Anderson’s footsteps, as the South African overcame a two-set deficit against Federer in last year’s quarter-finals, the World No. 20 needed a fast start in the third set. But instead of rushing forward to put away a high forehand volley when facing break point at 0-0 in the third, he let it drop too low and missed an attempted forehand drop volley into the net.
Berrettini maintained good spirits though. He tried to run around his backhand to hit a forehand on another break point, but Federer’s shot took a tough bounce off the sideline chalk, and Berrettini fell trying to make contact, cracking a laugh. Federer closed out his win by punishing a forehand volley into the open court.
In the next round, he will take a 7-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Nishikori, who battled past Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 43 minutes.
"Kukushkin is not an easy player on grass," Nishikori said. "He was playing good tennis. I did really well to manage his tennis."
Nishikori is into the quarter-finals of his fifth consecutive Grand Slam championship. The only other players who have made the last eight in each of those events are Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Against Kukushkin, the Japanese star converted five of his 13 break chances and won 61 per cent of his second-serve points, while the Kukushkin won only 44 per cent of his second-serve points.
The eighth seed has emerged victorious in 21 consecutive Grand Slam matches against players not named Djokovic or Nadal. He will take confidence onto the court against Federer having defeated the Swiss in their most recent meeting at last year's Nitto ATP Finals. Federer won their only Grand Slam battle at the 2017 Australian Open in five sets, and he also beat Nishikori on grass at 2014 Halle.
"I'm sure that I have to play good tennis to beat Roger, because he's best player on the grass," Nishikori said. "I think he seems to be playing good this week, past two weeks, so... I'm sure it's going to be tough. But I feel like I am very confident this week, playing good tennis."
Did You Know?
The Big Three of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic dominated play on Monday. The trio combined to lose just 19 games in nine sets.