Italian star Matteo Berrettini has broken new ground at Wimbledon this year. The 25-year-old overcame 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first Grand Slam final on Friday.

Victory over five-time champion Novak Djokovic on Centre Court will complete Berrettini’s journey to the top of the sport, and there will be one man in particular, coach Vincenzo Santopadre, who will be bursting with pride.

Santopadre has worked alongside Berrettini as his coach for 11 years, helping the World No. 9 win five tour-level titles and develop into the player he has become today. It is a deep-rooted relationship, built on respect and admiration, with the Italian duo like family.

Ahead of Sunday’s final, ATPTour.com caught up with Santopadre about his work with Berrettini and the key behind their success.

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How special has it been for you to watch Matteo reach his first Grand Slam final?
It is a dream, it is unreal, it is a lot to process. But I told him after, that I think if he can play like this, he can win Wimbledon. It is a dream that can come true. The unbelievable thing, which I told him after the match when we met, it was a real surprise.

You have been working with Matteo for more than a decade, so how much more emotional does that make this achievement for you?
It is unbelievable. We grew up together. Everyone in the team – me, the physio, the trainer, the mental coach – we have been working with Matteo for 11 years. It is a long time, it is special. I still had hair when I started working with him and I don’t know if it is the passing of the years as to why I have lost my hair or because of watching him play every match! I was so young, and he was a child, and now, I am not yet an old man, but he grew, and is a man. It is something really special because we have spent a lot of time together, so many years.

This is a very big moment for him, so how difficult will it be for him to block that pressure out and get him to treat this like any other match?
On Friday after his victory, I asked him, and I spoke to the mental coach. The mental coach said he was tight and felt the pressure. But we really think this is normal. A player has to feel the pressure, of course. It is not easy to turn it around to make it a positive vibe, and positive adrenaline, but he is able to do this. He is able to feel the pressure and with the passing of the points, he is always able to get into the match and it is something that is unbelievable. The match he played on Friday, he showed great power, dominating the court.

Ajla [Tomljanovic] told us that Matteo’s game is great, but that his mentality is even better. How much has he improved that over the years?
The key to his career is that he is always trying to improve. He is working to be better day by day. He is not missing any shots in training and has improved much more than everybody expected, me and him too. No one could say two or three years ago that he was going to become such a champion.

For me, you are a champion when you are able to work to be better and able to work like he does. He knows everything. He is aware he gave a big part of his life to be better, and it is not only about natural talent but work [ethic] too. He is a champion. I want to be humble, but the message is that Matteo can be a role model.

From all the years you have spent together, what is the best decision you have made with Matteo’s game?
We were able to build a complete player. In my opinion, a lot of coaches try to specialise players too soon when they are young. Instead, when Matteo was young, aged 14, 15, 16 years-old, we wanted to build a player who could play on every surface. We wanted him to be able to play attacking and defensive tennis, have every shot, such as a backhand slice. I think he is a complete player.



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