At last year’s US Open, Matteo Berrettini’s stirring run to the semi-finals was cheered on fervently by the Italian community in New York. Giovanni Bartocci was one of them.
The chef at a Manhattan restaurant, which Berrettini frequented during the 2019 Open, found a way to cheer on the Italian at the fan-less US Open this year as well. The hard-court Slam is being played without spectators this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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But as Berrettini took on Casper Ruud in the third round on Court 17, Bartocci stood outside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre fence and shouted encouragement at the big Italian. He even brought out a microphone and loudspeaker to cheer him on.
“I think nobody didn’t hear him,” said the sixth seed, who defeated Ruud 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday. “Was really loud today. I think louder than the other days.”
Bartocci was a regular feature in Berrettini’s box last year as the Italian, armed with a big serve and forehand, powered his way to the last four. But the 24-year-old was informed that Bartocci was struggling as his restaurant burned down.
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“I’m really sorry for this guy, because his restaurant was everything for him. And I’m really sorry, because he got a little bit bad luck twice for the, I mean, for the fire and for the virus.
“So I’m really looking forward to try to help him maybe a little bit. I don’t know what we can do. He’s struggling. I don’t know if he’s going to come back in Italy, but I’m really thankful that he’s here. He’s enjoying a little bit different this year. But he’s a nice guy.”
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Berrettini, who will take on Andrey Rublev in a repeat of last year’s round of 16, also said that his super-fan Bartocci had travelled to watch him at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last year. But Bartocci may not be able to cheer him on against Rublev if the match is put on a show court.
“I don’t know if the tournament is going to agree with that,” said the Italian of the chances of him being put on Court 17 again against Rublev. “Fourth round there. I don’t know. I don’t know. But why not? Would be great. Would be nice to hear him.”