Showing posts with label Italian Open. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Open. Show all posts

12 April 2022

Matteo Berrettini - tennis champion

First Italian to reach Wimbledon final

Matteo Berrettini has risen to No 6 in the world rankings
Matteo Berrettini has risen to
No 6 in the world rankings
The tennis player Matteo Berrettini, who in 2021 became the first Italian to reach the men’s singles final at the Wimbledon Championships, was born on this day in 1996 in Rome.

Berrettini finished runner-up in the prestigious grass court tournament in South West London, losing in four sets to the world No 1 Novak Djokovic. It was his first appearance in any of the four Grand Slam finals, having previously reached the semi-finals at the US Open in 2019 and the quarter-finals at the French Open in 2021, where he also lost to Djokovic.

A week before the Wimbledon tournament began, Berrettini had won his first ATP 500 level final when he beat the British player Cameron Norrie in the final of the Queen’s Club Championships, also in London and also played on grass.

He proved a popular winner despite home support for his opponent and despite having knocked out another two British players in two-time former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Dan Evans on the way to the final.

Berrettini climbed to a career-high No 6 in the ATP world rankings in January 2022 after reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where he was beaten by the same player who had denied him a place at the US Open final in 2019, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Growing up in the part of the Monte Sacro quartiere of northeast Rome known as Conca d’Oro, Berrettini was destined for a sporting career from an early age. 

Berrettini reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2021
Berrettini reached the semi-finals at
Wimbledon in 2021
His parents, Luca and Claudia, both played tennis at a good club level and gave Matteo his first tennis racquet at the age of three. For a while, however, he rejected the game, preferring swimming and judo. It was his younger brother, Jacopo, with whom he now plays doubles, who persuaded him to see how good he could be at tennis. The two had practised together since they were elementary school children and Jacopo believed his brother had outstanding talent.

Matteo Berrettini’s first steps towards becoming a professional tennis player came at the Circolo Magistrati della Corte dei Conti, whose courts sit by the River Tiber just north of the fashionable Parioli district. There he was coached by Raoul Pietrangeli, a former player with a famous name but actually unrelated to Nicola Pietrangeli, who won the French Open twice and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1960.

From there he moved a short distance along the Tiber to the Circolo Canottieri Aniene club, where he joined up with Vincenzo Santopradre, whose achievements as a player were relatively modest but who has been Berrettini’s coach since 2011. 

Berrettini made his ATP main draw debut at the Italian Open in 2017 and won his first world tour title the following year, at the Swiss Open Gstaad clay court tournament.

His major breakthrough year was 2019, when as well as reaching the US Open semi-finals he won ATP titles in Budapest on clay and in Stuttgart on grass, underlining the effectiveness of his all-court game.  He climbed into the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time.

Berrettini at the Euro 2020 final with Sergio Mattarella and fencer Valentina Vezzali
Berrettini at the Euro 2020 final with Sergio
Mattarella and fencer Valentina Vezzali
Berrettini retained his place in the top 10 in Covid-disrupted 2020 and when he reached the fourth round in the French Open in 2021, where the withdrawal of Roger Federer through injury handed him a free passage to the quarter-finals, he became the first Italian in history to have reached the last 16 of all four men’s Grand Slams.

His Queen’s victory in London was another first for an Italian male player and his appearance in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where he beat the Polish player Hubert Hurkacz, was the first by an Italian man since the aforementioned Pietrangeli in 1960. 

A big football fan, Berrettini was invited as a guest of the Italian President Sergio Mattarella to the delayed final of the Euro 2020 tournament at Wembley just hours after his defeat against Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, arriving in time to see Italy beat the hosts, England, in a penalty shoot-out.

In 2022, Berrettini, who is engaged to the Croatia-born Australian player Ajila Tomljanović, became the first Italian man to reach the quarter-finals of all four majors when the advanced to the last eight of the Australian Open, and subsequently the first Italian man to reach the semi-finals of that tournament, the result elevating him to world No 6.

Piazza Sempione is the main square in Monte Sacro
Piazza Sempione is the main square in Monte Sacro
Travel tip:

Monte Sacro, of which Berrettini’s Conca d’Oro neighbourhood is a part, is a residential suburb of Rome that wraps around the tree-lined banks of the Aniene, a tributary of the Tiber.  Also known as Città Giardino, the area underwent substantial development in the 1920s and combines Baroque and medieval architectural styles. Sitting on slightly elevated land, it is one of the greenest parts of the city, with tree-lined streets, the Parco delle Valli, which has cycle trails that draw visitors from all over Rome, and the Aniene nature reserve, which straddles a large section of the river and feels like a rural oasis in the midst of a bustling city. There are also plenty of pizzerias, bakeries, wine bars, and local shops and the regular Conca d’Oro antiques market, which makes it an increasingly trendy area to live for young professionals.

Rome hotels from

The Foro Italico has been the home of the Italian Open tennis championships since 1935
The Foro Italico has been the home of the
Italian Open tennis championships since 1935
Travel tip:

The Foro Italico, home of the Italian Open tennis tournament where Matteo Berrettini made his ATP tour main draw debut in 2017, is a sports complex on the slopes of Monte Mario in Rome, on the northwestern fringe of the city centre. It was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini. Inspired by the Roman forums of the imperial age, and dotted with classical statues, it is seen as a major example of Italian so-called Fascist architecture instituted by Mussolini. The purpose of the project was to secure for Rome the Olympic Games of 1940 but in the event the Games were cancelled because of World War Two.  The Italian Open tennis tournament has been staged at the Foro Italico every year, with a few exceptions, since 1935.

Also on this day:

352: The death of Pope Julius I

1710: The birth of castrato opera singer Caffarelli 

1948: The birth of football coach Marcello Lippi

1950: The birth of entrepreneur Flavio Briatore

1992: The birth of child actor Giorgio Cantarini



8 November 2017

Francesco Molinari – golfer

Second win in Italian Open gave him unique status

Francesco Molinari lining up the putt that won him the 2016 Italian Open golf championship at Monza
Francesco Molinari lining up the putt that won him
the 2016 Italian Open golf championship at Monza
Francesco Molinari, one of two golfing brothers who have advanced the cause of the sport in Italy more than anyone in the modern era, was born on this day in 1982 in Turin.

He and Edoardo, who is 21 months’ his senior, won the Mission Hills World Cup in China in 2009, the first time Italy had won the two-player team event.

And when he sank a 5ft (1.5m) putt to beat the Masters champion Danny Willett to win the Italian Open in Monza in September last year, Francesco became the first Italian to win his country’s open championship twice since it became part of the European tour in 1972.

He had won it for the first time in 2006 at the Castello di Tolcinasco course just outside Milan, which gave him his first European tour victory at the age of 23 and made him the first Italian to win the tournament since Massimo Mannelli in 1980.

The success made such an impact in Italy, and in Turin in particular, that Francesco was asked to be one of the official torch carriers on behalf of the host nation at the 2006 Winter Olympics, which were staged in Turin.

With four titles to his name on the European tour, Francesco has yet to win a major but went close in this year’s PGA Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, finishing in a three-way tie for second place just two shots behind winner Justin Thomas. He might have won had he not made a bogey at the 16th hole in the final round.

Molinari at the 2013 French Open
Molinari at the 2013 French Open
In terms of European tour victories, he now stands just one behind Costantino Rocca, the most successful male golfer Italy has produced.

Rocca, who plays now on the seniors tour, contested 21 majors in the 1990s and remains the only player to beat Tiger Woods in a Ryder Cup singles match. He was beaten to the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1995 only in a play-off against the American, John Daly.

Golf is not a widely played sport in Italy, with fewer than 300 courses in the whole country, less than half of which have the full 18 holes. Yet the Molinari brothers grew up in a golfing family, following their parents and grandparents in taking up the clubs.

Francesco began playing at the Circolo Golf Torino, an exclusive club about 25km (15 miles) northwest of the centre of the city and host to the Italian Open three times, at the age of eight and as he matured he became a star on the amateur circuit.

After graduating in economics and business at the Luigi Einaudi Faculty of the University of Turin, he turned professional in 2004.

His best season so far as a professional, even considering his achievement at the PGA Championship this year, was the 2010 campaign, when he won his first world tour event, defeating Lee Westwood by one stroke to win the WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai, China. The win moved him into 14th place in the world rankings, his highest to date. He also recorded eleven top-10 finishes including two runner-up spots.

Francesco's brother Edoardo Molinari
Francesco's brother Edoardo Molinari
In October of the same year, he and Edoardo became the first brothers to appear on the winning side in a Ryder Cup match as Europe beat the United States 14½–13½ in a thrilling contest at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.

It is thought that Francesco and Edoardo are largely responsible for seeing the number of participating golfers in Italy rising at a rate of roughly five per cent per year since 2000, when there were fewer than 60,000 active golfers. The sport is still seen as rather elitist, yet the numbers are up to more than 100,000 now and Italy will host the Ryder Cup in 2022

Francesco is married to lawyer and photogapher Valentina Platini, with whom he has a son, Tommaso. Despite his roots in Turin, Francesco is a fan of the Milan football team Internazionale. Encouraged by his veteran English coach, Denis Pugh, he has declared an allegiance also to the English Premier League club, West Ham.

UPDATE: In July 2018, Molinari became the first Italian to win a major golf championship when he held off a cluster of star names to claim the Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland. He finished two shots ahead of four players who tied for second place with the all-time great Tiger Woods one shot further behind.

The Castello di Tolcinasco golf complex, near Milan
The Castello di Tolcinasco golf complex, near Milan
Travel tip:

As the name would suggest, Castello di Tolcinasco, a small community about 20km (12 miles) south of Milan on the edge of the Milan South Agricultural Park, is notable for its 16th century castle, which was built for the protection of farmland and food stores.  The golf course, one of few in Lombardy with 36 holes, including 27 of championship standard, was designed by the great American golfer, Arnold Palmer.

The Reggia di Venaria Reale palace, once a hunting lodge owned by the House of Savoy
The Reggia di Venaria Reale palace, once a hunting lodge
owned by the House of Savoy
Travel tip:

The Circolo Golf Torino club is located in a beautiful area of parkland known as La Mandria, which was once the Royal House of Savoy’s game reserve, and is only a short distance from the Baroque splendour of the Reggia di Venaria Reale palace, a former royal residence. The palace was commissioned by Duke Charles Emmanuel II and built in 1675 by the court architect Amedeo di Castellamonte, as a base for the duke while he was participating in hunting expeditions in the hills north of the city.