Arnaldi, the boy who runs in the rain

Results aside, one of the objectives of Matteo Arnaldi was the competitiveness on indoor concrete. He found this condition in Bergamo for the Perrel-Faip Trophy, presented by BPER Banca (€ 45.730, Slam Court). “The idea was to challenge and beat players in my ranking, possibly even higher”. He did it perfectly in the afternoon of PalaIntred, in which he left four games to Gregoire Barrere, number 93 ATP and fresh from the success at the Challenger in Brest, but already defeated by Arnaldi in Saint Tropez: “My game bothers him a lot, even in the previous match it came from a good moment – Arnaldi says – then today I played particularly well and I’m happy with how I was on the pitch. We hope to maintain this level also in the next matches ”.

The opponent is called Liam Broady, strong and experienced player. And left-handed. “But nothing changes for me. I’ve never faced it, it will be a game to prepare well. Fortunately, the pitch is rather slow and I can express myself at my best ”. Arnaldi is part of the Italian Next Gen, a group of young people who this year made an important qualitative leap. At the beginning of the year he was number 364 ATP, today he “sees” the top-100. One wonders if he was expecting such a sudden growth, moreover topped off by a Challenger victory (Francavilla al Mare) and two other finals. “I’m happy with my season especially thinking about how it started – reflects the Sanremo player – we all have expectations, but in the first two months of the year I played badly, so I didn’t expect to go up that much. I have come one step away from the Next Gen Finals, in fact next week I will be in Milan as alternates in the hope that someone does not play … Seriously, it was not a goal. This year we have focused above all on work and improvement on this surface. And today came the first indoor victory with a top-100 ”.


It is pleasant to talk to Arnaldi, perhaps because he does not live his profession – and everything that revolves around him, including his commitments with the press – as a job. He really loves tennis and life on the circuit, even if a few years ago he left the Tirrenia FIT Center to return to San Remo. “But it is a place where you train very well – he specifies – but I need to take a break when training ends. In Tirrenia, on the other hand, you spend all your time inside the center, because it is a bit isolated. To go out I was at the mercy of others, not having the car yet. Also, being away from home, I found it hard to do anything else and get my driver’s license. But if you have to do an intensive training period of 1-2 weeks it remains a good place, where you have everything at your disposal. I enjoyed coming home and being with my family. Luckily I found a good structure, not yet developed as today, with Matteo Civarolo, my coach Alessandro Petrone (who had just stopped playing) and the trainer Diego Silva. Last year I had an impressive growth in the standings (from 900 to about 350, ed), but not because I had improved too much in terms of tennis: I was simply more mentally free ”.

Born in 2001, Arnaldi is one of the few players who does not answer “Federer” when asked about his childhood idol. His favorite has always been Novak Djokovic (“What a thrill when I saw him play for the first time in Monte Carlo”), although he feels more like Nadal in attitude than him. “But take this comparison with a grain of salt!” he says, as if to make sure he doesn’t sound too presumptuous. His explanation convinces. “I happen to incite myself when the match is particularly close, a bit like Nadal – he says – I hardly get angry like Djokovic, who gets a throttle from time to time. On the pitch I can be quite calm, even if it hasn’t always been like that ”.


Yes, because until a few years ago Arnaldi was very angry on the tennis court. “I tried to eliminate these moments, this year I have improved a lot. I feel calmer: previously I had to manage my mind, because maybe I wanted to express my nervousness but I was trying to contain myself. Now, however, anger no longer emerges. The truth is, I matured a little late, even physically. This step could have come earlier, but I’m on a path where I’m a little behind, but I feel smaller than my age. I could be 18-19 years old ”. In other words, he is trying to repeat what Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti did, peers (or almost) who made the qualitative leap before him. “When I faced them in the youth categories they were part of the group, they simply matured earlier. Mind you, they play very well. But many play well: they became players before. Many have made this step this year. I also feel more “a player”: maybe next year I will go down to number 500, but I feel I have this awareness “. It is the right reward for those who have always pursued his goal, without ever losing sight of the right priorities. Coach Alessandro Petrone said he saw him run in the rain, in the middle of a cycle path. “I’m lucky: I don’t mind doing these things – concludes Arnaldi – if I dedicate myself to something, why shouldn’t I do it? All the more so if it concerns my job, although I don’t see tennis as a job. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. Certainly there are days when I don’t feel too much desire, but I turn off the alarm, get up and go ”.


Still a hit for Andrea Vavassori: despite having been playing for a month without breaks, often in different conditions, it continues to churn out excellent performances. After passing the qualifiers, he won a valuable match against Nicolas Jarry, former ATP top-40. The double 7-6 for the Piedmontese was a tactical match, in which both took into account the characteristics of the opponent: the blue knew that Jarry responds very well, therefore he reduced the percentage of serve and volley, a distinctive feature of his tennis, while Jarry tried to appear on the net as much as possible. An interesting game came out, with short exchanges, interesting solutions and decided by the details.

In truth, Jarry made some measurement errors at crucial moments, allowing Wave (Vavassori’s historic nickname) to take a small lead in both tie-breaks. Vavassori’s merit was continuity: he had no drops, he remained faithful to his tactical plan and finished with a good winning volley, after which he had also shown good things with the passer-by, stimulated by Jarry’s tactical conduct. He will return to the field on Thursday in another fascinating match: he will challenge Borna Gojo, fresh from his first Challenger title in his career, in Ortisei. Between the two there is a precedent, played last June on the British grass of Ilkley: the Croatian clearly won, so for Vavassori it is a good chance of revenge. The first to hit the quarter-finals was the Portuguese Nuno Borges, who in the first match of the day had benefited from the withdrawal of Dennis Novak: with the defeats of Majchrzak, Barrere and Zhizhen Zhang, he remained the only seed in the race. Respecting the reigning balance of Challenger tournaments.





Arnaldi, the boy who runs in the rain