Sinner Beats Curfew Clock, Berrettini In Wimbledon Late-Night Thriller

Jannik Sinner (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 4, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

With an 11 p.m. Wimbledon Championships curfew looming — just 27 minutes away — and a full house filling Centre Court on Day 3 Wednesday evening, men’s World No. 1 and top seed Jannik Sinner wrapped up a long night’s work by pulling out a remarkable 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-6 (4) second-round victory over fellow Italian and 59th-ranked Matteo Berrettini that lasted a riveting three hours and 42 minutes and ended at 10:33 p.m. London Time.

It was the 22-year-old Sinner’s seventh straight triumph on grass, a winning streak that began last month during a Wimbledon grass-court tune-up at Halle that was won by the South Tyrolean. It was also his second victory over Berrettini in two career meetings following his earlier second-round win in Toronto last year. Fan favorite Berrettini, a 2021 Wimbledon finalist, has now dropped all five contests he’s played against No. 1-ranked competition.

The win maintained Sinner’s perfect Tour-level win-loss record against Italians at 14-0.

In a very tightly-contested match between two friends and competitors — two of Italy’s all-time great players — Sinner hit 10 aces, struck 32 winners and made 25 unforced errors, while the 28-year-old Rome native Berrettini fired 28 aces, compiled 65 winners and committed 48 unforced errors. By the conclusion, Sinner had outpointed Berrettini 156-141.

“First of all we are very good friends,” Sinner said in his on-court interview of his oft-injured compatriot Berrettini. “We played Davis Cup together and we practice together, so it is very very tough we had to face in the second round in such an important tournament. Today was a very high-level match. In three tie-breaks I got a little bit lucky and I take it for today. …

“We have spoken with the team a lot and I knew I had to raise my level,” Sinner added. “He played the final here and is a grass-court specialist. I was looking forward to it and it was a challenge to come on court and I am very happy with how I handled the situation. There were some ups and downs, which is normal in a five-set [match], but I am happy.”

Next, on Friday, Sinner will face No. 52 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who upset No. 27 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, 4-6, 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, in two hours and 51 minutes on Court 17.

That’s amore: Italians Fognini and Paolini win and advance

While it’s difficult to miss the normally dark-haired Fabio Fognini, a newly-peroxide blond was holding court and entertaining fans on No. 2 Court. When it mattered most, Fognini got serious.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fognini played good tennis and upset No. 8 seed Casper Ruud. The 94th-ranked Fognini sent the World No. 8 from Norway packing after handing him his third consecutive second-round loss at Wimbledon. With a bit of drama to combat the drizzling conditions, Fognini pulled out a 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (1), 6-3 victory in three hours and 18 minutes.

Despite failing to serve out the match twice in the third set, the 37-year-old Sanremo native and dean of the Italian men’s players on Tour, remained calm and controlled down the stretch. He finally won on his fifth match point, a third-shot forehand winner. It was Fognini’s 59th winner of the second-round match that helped offset his 48 unforced errors. Ruud countered with 48 winners but made 47 unforced errors.

By the end, Fognini outpointed Ruud 152-151. Then, the temperamental one had plenty to share — most of it in a stream of consciousness kind of way — during his on-court interview with the BBC’s Jenny Drummond.

“That’s why I love and hate this sport at the same time,” the soft-spoken Fognini said, almost whispering but also laughing, with a towel draped around his neck for good effect. “I was really in control of the match; I was 5-2, 30-0 [in the third set] and in this game, he play two or three shots when he say ‘let’s go: if it’s in, it’s in. If it’s out the match is over’.

“After that, 5-4 – that’s tension. That’s the sport. Too many things coming into my mind, why I lost this game. And he was playing better, serving better. On the other hand I lost this tie-break and I say ‘OK, I am two sets to one up. I am still in control of the match so let’s play. Let’s enjoy. I think I did a great job today!”

Next, Fognini will oppose the serious-minded No. 112 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and, likely, the Italian will once again be the court jester — combining his tennis talent with his ability to make fans laugh, too.

Meanwhile, after Fognini was through entertaining his faithful, it was time for World No. 7 Jasmine Paolini to shine. With her match moved indoors to No. 1 Court, she took advantage of the change of scenery and played spirited tennis in her 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over No. 80 Greet Minnen of Belgium.

“At first, I was a little bit nervous, but now I’m so happy I could get the win on this beautiful court,” the 5-foot-4 Paolini said during her on-court interview. “I’m happy and grateful.”

During their 92-minute tussle, Paolini struck 29 winners, converted six of 13 break points and outpointed Minnen 78-64. With her 26th win of the season secured, it advanced Paolini to the third round, the furthest she’s gone in four Wimbledon main draws. It follows a solid pathway she’s charted in majors this year that began with reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open and continued at Roland-Garros, where she was a finalist.

“I’m just lucky but I put in hard work,” said Paolini, when asked to describe why she’s been successful this season. “I believe more in myself. It’s special to be in the third round at Wimbledon, where I had never won a match before [this year]. I’m happy to be in the third round and I’m enjoying this tournament.”

On Friday, Paolini will face former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada, whom she beat last month, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0, in the third round of the French Open in Paris. For now, though, Paolini was all smiles as she signed autographs and took selfies with as many of her fans as possible.

All is good these days for the diminutive one from Tuscany. Paolini’s smile says it all.