Updated2/6/2021 7:36:00 AM
The tennis world has been buzzing about Italian tennis of late. With #NextGenATP players Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti blossoming into stars, the future of the sport in their country looks bright.
But this week at the ATP Cup, Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini have shown that Italy is not just poised to shine in the future; the country is already making its mark. The Italians will meet Team Russia in Sunday’s championship match. They are not surprised about it, either.
“Surprised? No,” Fognini said. “I'm honest.”
Berrettini and Fognini have not surged out of nowhere. They both broke into the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2019, becoming the third (Fognini) and fourth (Berrettini) Italians to achieve the feat since the inception of the Rankings in 1973.
Not only are they within one tie victory from lifting the ATP Cup trophy as a team, but the Italians are thrilled to make their country proud.
“I’m feeling great to play not just for me, but for my team and for Italy in general,” Berrettini said on court after beating Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday. “That's what matters the most.”
Many Italians give a lot of the credit for the country’s recent success to the accomplishments and mentorship of veterans Fognini, Simone Bolelli, Andreas Seppi and Paolo Lorenzi among others.
“I think thanks to these two guys in general and the guys a bit older than me, they were kind of wishing us to get better,” Berrettini said earlier in the week. “We were watching them and we were inspired by them. They're still doing great careers. I think it helped us to figure out how to do it.”
It’s safe to say Italy, home of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and from this year, the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, will be a threat at the ATP Cup for years to come. But 33-year-old Fognini, who has gone a combined 3-1 in singles and doubles at this edition, is happy to be contributing to his country’s success now.
“[It is] really nice because I think I’m still okay, even if I'm 33. I still enjoy [playing],” Fognini said. “I have energy to do it… [my FedEx ATP] Ranking is not important anymore because, of course, I can play, I can beat most of everybody. I'm happy because I'm the old one.”
But at the same time, Fognini thinks it is nice for other players from his country to follow the path the current Italian veterans laid down.
“It's nice that we have players like [Matteo who] is turning 25, now the other two guys that are almost 20. They are younger than me also,” Fognini said. “But it's good not only from us, but it's good for them because they’re still really young. They have to work a lot to reach probably the best [in the sport].”
The Italian success has not gone unnoticed by the stars of the ATP Tour, including Daniil Medvedev, who will play Berrettini in Sunday’s ATP Cup final.
“To be honest, Italian tennis is amazing. I think the number of players they have inside the Top 500… we see a lot,” Medvedev said. “It’s an amazing tennis nation. They had maybe for some time just a little bit of a downfall, but just a little one. Now they're back at it, especially Matteo, Fabio playing amazing here.”
The ATP Cup is not the only event at Melbourne Park in which Italians have enjoyed success this week. Sinner will play countryman Stefano Travaglia in the Great Ocean Road Open final.
While there is plenty to look forward to in the future for Italian tennis, the country and its stars are enjoying the present, too.
“When [Jannik is] coming, I'm not going to play. I'm too old now. 33, 34 in May,” Fognini said, cracking a laugh. “So [by that point] I'm going to relax with fishing [and] enjoy life as much as I can.”