Shortly after Rafael Nadal ended his dreams at the Australian Open on Friday, Matteo Berrettini sat with the Spanish 20-times Grand Slam winner in the locker room discussing the match and their futures.
Berrettini had hoped to leave Melbourne as the first Italian to win the Australian Open but Nadal dashed those hopes with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win in a semi-final lasting just short of three hours.
At the net, the seventh-seeded Italian whispered into the ear of the 35-year-old he considers an inspiration, congratulating him on his form and his return to a Grand Slam final.
"We have always had a great relationship with Rafa since I met him ... so I wanted to say good luck and obviously well done for what he did so far," Berrettini said.
"We also chatted a little bit in the locker room. He told me that (I had) a great run, and I told him again, 'bravo'.
"It's just really nice for me to ... talk to him and have this kind of conversation, because I'm still learning from (him), and it's good."
The 25-year-old has reached at least the quarter-finals at the past four majors, which included a run to a decider at Wimbledon when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
But he leaves with mixed feelings.
While pleased to reach the semi-finals, Berrettini was disappointed with his mindset in the opening two sets against Nadal. He attributed this to the mental fatigue that comes with pushing deep into a Grand Slam tournament.
"I was playing good tennis and he was playing good tennis and it was, I think, also fun to watch," he said. "But you cannot be on the court like this for the first two sets against a player like Rafa.
"Even if I was like I was in the third and the fourth, I still don't know if I could have won the match, but for sure the attitude in the first two, it wasn't good enough."
The world number seven has vowed to improve from the experience.
"I'm proud of what I have done. But I guess, in a way, it's good that I still have room for improvement."
- IND-W vs ENG-W, 1st T20I Preview: India Women hit reset button under new coach Muzumdar as World Cup beckons
- Sports bodies ask IOC to allow Russians as neutral athletes for 2024 Paris Olympics
- Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen to undergo surgery for lower back issue
- Javier Tebas to remain La Liga president until 2027
- Karun Nair hopes for national comeback after career reset with Vidarbha