As expected, Matteo Berrettini proved too powerful for Cameron Norrie and defeated the British No.2 to claim the cinch Championships title and in the process, establish himself as a contender for the Wimbledon crown when the championships get underway on Monday next
It was definitely a really good week. When you win a tournament, it means that you’re playing good. I think today I had to play my best tennis, especially in the important points, to win. Matteo Berrettini
The Italian’s power and court craft have been evident throughout the week as he swept past his fellow countryman Stefano Travaglia, Britain’s Andy Murray and Dan Evans, plus Australia’s Alex de Minaur, to make the final losing his serve just twice in the first round, but not dropping a set.
However, in the final, Norrie impressed and gave him a run for his money as he became the only player to take a set off the world No.9 and top seed, albeit failing to dent that howitzer of a serve.
Berrettini won the title 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 to match Boris Becker’s performance of 1985 when the 17-year-old German also succeeded on his debut at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event. He of course went on to win The Championships a few weeks later and no doubt, Berrettini hopes to continue emulating him.
“It’s been an unbelievable week and to think of Boris Becker’s name and my name together is crazy.
“I have been watching the tournament since I was a kid and this is a dream come true to win it,” he said of his fifth career title – his second on grass having won Stuttgart in 2019 – and first at 500 level.
As already mentioned, the 25-year-old from Rome didn’t drop a set until the final and hung on to his serve for the 46th consecutive time since the opening round and never faced a break point in the final itself.
“It was definitely a really good week. When you win a tournament, it means that you’re playing good. But I think during the tournament, after every match I was increasing my level,” Berrettini said. “I think today I had to play my best tennis, especially in the important points, to win.
“I’m really happy with my performance overall.”
Obvious disappointment for Norrie who was appearing in his third ATP final of the season without any success, but he will see his ranking rise from 41 to within to 34 and could well be seeded for Wimbledon.
“I think I played okay. The first set I just donated him the break, and that was the first set. I didn’t have any really chances on his serve,” Norrie, who had posted excellent wins over Russia’s Aslan Karatsev and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, said after the loss.
“But he’s tricky because he’s obviously serving very good first and second serve, and then you’re back to serving very quickly. Obviously not easy, but I did everything I could.
“If you had told me before the tournament I would be in the final I would have been surprised.
“It has been a very special week. I am a little bit disappointed I did not get the title today but we will keep pushing for more.”
There was no doubting that and it was the serve which made the difference with Berrettini maintaining the pressure with his thunderbolts, usually delivered at speeds over140 mph.
Two double faults handed the Italian the break he required to pocket the opening set.
Norrie regrouped in the second saving two break points before moving ahead 5-4 and two games later, came to within two points of breaking the Berrettini serve, only for his hopes to be dashed by his opponent’s trademark deliveries.
However, in the tiebreak, Norrie snatched a mini-break to set up three set points, converting the third following a Berrettin backhand error which floated long.
Two more break points were fended off by Norrie at 2-3 in the decider but in his next service game he blew a 40-0 lead, netting limply to hand Berrettini the chance to serve for the championship, which he duly did.
Berrettini, one of 10 Italians in the top 100, paid tribute to his opponent.
“He is a great player. We had never played each other before but he showed this year he can play on all surfaces.
“In the rallies Norrie is dangerous so it was important to have my service in order.
“These courts are really nice and easy to adapt to even if the weather was English for the last days of the week.”
Would he be celebrating his success? “Probably room service and sparkling water,” was his response.
Norrie will rise to 34 in the world rankings and took defeat in a sporting spirit.
“All credit to Matteo, he was too good today and better on the big points. You are having a great career keep it up,” he said.
Meanwhile In Halle, Germany, Frenchman Ugo Humbert, world ranked 31, won the Noventi Open grass court event to claim the biggest prize of his career.
He defeated in 84-minutes, the favourite Russia’s world No seven, Andrey Rublev, the fourth seed, 6-3 7-6(4) for his first win at 500 level having won two other titles the next level down.
Humbert had earlier defeated Alexander Zverev in the second round in an event which also the surprising early departures of Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev.