If previous meetings between Carlos Alcaraz and Matteo Berrettini are anything to go by, Centre Court at Wimbledon will be treated to a pulsating, marathon encounter when the pair clash in the fourth round on Monday.
In three meetings since their first in 2021, every match between the pair has gone the distance, with two decided in a final-set tiebreak.
World number one Alcaraz has the upper hand in three-set encounters but in their only meeting in a Grand Slam, Berrettini prevailed in a heavyweight slugfest at the Australian Open last year that lasted over four hours.
With a straight sets victory over Alexander Zverev without dropping serve in the third round, Berrettini has suddenly emerged as a dark horse at Wimbledon.
“I’m not seeded but it’s a tough draw,” said a smiling Berrettini, a finalist in 2021.
“In a way, it’s what you want, right? You want to play against the best players in the world. Playing against Carlos, it’s always been a pleasure, a great fight. I remember playing in Australia against him - five sets.
“We always give our best. He’s number one right now, so he’s the best player in the world. It’s going to be a great challenge, but I’m so glad that I have this opportunity right now.”
Berrettini missed the 2022 Wimbledon with COVID-19 while injuries in the past year saw the Italian’s ranking plummet. He is now ranked 38th in the world.
Looking to make up for lost time, the Italian has played almost every day of the first week at the All England Club after matches were postponed due to rain but he has no complaints.
“If they told me a few weeks ago, ‘You’re going to play five days in a row in Wimbledon,’ I would have signed with my blood,” he added.
“I really spent days in bed thinking about the tournaments that I missed, the injuries that I had, sadness that I was feeling.”
Meanwhile, Alcaraz came through a tricky encounter in the third round to beat Nicolas Jarry in four hours and the top seed is finally warming up to Centre Court after nerves got the better of the Spaniard last year during his Wimbledon debut.
“Every match that I win on Centre Court is better for me to get into this court, this atmosphere ... I feel that I belong to that court,” Alcaraz said.
“I feel really comfortable on that court. I feel (I have) a lot of confidence right now.”
They will have to wait until holder Elena Rybakina faces Brazilian trailblazer Beatriz Haddad Maia, after which last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur meets twice champion Petra Kvitova, who has a 4-1 winning record over the Tunisian.
“She’s an amazing player,” Jabeur said. “I have much more experience right now, I definitely want to go for my revenge.”
“I need to be focused, I need to be calm, I need to believe more in myself that I can beat someone like Petra. She plays amazing, she plays very fast.”
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