What a difference a year has made! Twelve months ago, the defending champion Alexander Zverev defeated Matteo Berrettini in the second round of Rome to open the quest for the second straight Rome final, flying on the wings of Madrid title he won a few days earlier.
Today, Berrettini was a small favorite against the struggling German in the same round on the same court in Rome, scoring a 7-5, 7-5 triumph to deliver another early exit to Zverev who has won only 15 out of 25 matches in 2019 so far.
On the other hand, Matteo is now 16-10 this year after winning Budapest and reaching another final in Munich, scoring the third Masters 1000 win and becoming the first player who has reached the last 16 at home event. The 4th seed gave his best to stay in touch with the Italian rival but there is almost nothing that currently works in his favor on the court, struggling on the second serve and getting broken four times from eight chances offered to Berrettini.
On the other hand, Matteo fended off seven out of nine break points to limit the damage in his games, prevailing in the crucial moments to grab the first top-10 win. They had a similar number of winners and unforced errors and it was Berrettini who had the advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes and also in the most extended ones to leave the German behind and achieve his best result at Masters 1000 series.
Matteo drew first blood in the second game of the match after a double fault from Zverev who broke back in game five when Matteo netted a forehand, overcoming a 3-0 deficit and building momentum for the rest of the set. Returning at 5-5, Alexander squandered five break points and had to pay the price in the very next game, spraying a forehand error to hand the opener to Berrettini who drew the energy from the partisan crowd ahead of the second set.
There, Zverev earned an early break before Matteo claimed three straight games to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard, staying neck and neck until game ten when Alexander saved a match point on own serve to prolong the encounter and his chances.
It wasn't to be for him, though, netting a forehand in game 12 to send Berrettini over the top and lose 600 points for another ranking setback.