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Tennis News • Once In Berrettini’s Position, Djokovic Uses Experience To Start Fast At ATP Finals

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic remembers when he was in Matteo Berrettini ‘s current situation, making his debut appearance at the year-end championship. It was 2007, when he was just 20 years old.

With the Masters Cup in its penultimate season in Shanghai, Djokovic landed in a round-robin group with Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, and Richard Gasquet. The Serb compiled an 0-3 and did not win a single set, falling to Ferrer 6-4, 6-4, to Gasquet 6-4, 6-2, and to Nadal 6-4, 6-4.

“I remember back in…I think it was 2007 that I played for the first time in the [year-end championship] in Shanghai, and I think I lost all three matches in the group,” Djokovic recalled. “I was with Nadal and Ferrer; I can’t remember the fourth guy (Gasquet). I was tense. I mean, I was happy that I was there, of course. I was very proud to be part of this elite eight guys, but it’s an environment which is kind of new to you. Even though it’s a tennis court, a tennis match, it’s still different, knowing that you’re there for the first time and that you’re going to play against a top-10 player every match in the group.

“It’s a lot of pressure mentally that you have to deliver your best, where for us guys that have been playing on the top level for many years, we have the experience. We know how to handle these kind of situations emotionally (and) mentally.

“So that’s why at the beginning [against Berrettini], knowing that he’s probably going to feel a bit more nervous I wanted to try to use and break the resistance very quickly. He missed a relatively easy forehand for him. That gave me break. And after that I started reading his serve better, positioning myself on the court. I started moving really well.”

Berrettini did not last long once Djokovic got rolling. The 23-year-old, who surged to No. 8 in the world from a previous career-high of 52nd, got broken in every one of his last five service games starting at 2-3 in the opening set. He committed 33 unforced errors to Djokovic’s eight.

“For sure I was nervous,” Berrettini admitted. “First time in the Finals after a great year, so, yeah I was nervous–but not in a bad way. Normally when I step in the court and I don’t feel nervous, something is wrong. I have to feel nervous to play my best tennis. I think I started the match pretty [well], but he was just better than me today. So (I’m) just accepting the loss and for sure I’m looking forward to play the next matches.”

There are at least two more matches to be played for Berrettini inside the O2 Arena, and really both of them are win-win situations. He has nothing to lose–other than a few tennis matches!–just as Djokovic did not have much to lose in 2007. 

And even if he Italian does go 0-3 in his year-end championship debut, well…it’s not too bad in the long run to have something in common with Djokovic!

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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