He isn’t quite as recognisable as Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon or as flamboyant as Serie A star Mario Balotelli, but Matteo Berrettini is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in Italy.
When you consider the 23-year-old was an unknown commodity this time last year, it is a remarkable rise in a short space of time.
He wasn’t ranked inside the top 50 players on the planet and had never come close to the second week of a major when he last played at Melbourne Park.
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But fast forward 12 months, Berrettini is now the world No. 8 and is one of the brightest young talents in the game.
The Rome star reached the semi-finals of the US Open during a fairytale fortnight in New York last September and featured in ATP Finals for the first time, after winning the Hungarian Open in Budapest and the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart during a breakout 2019.
“Everything has changed a little bit; when I go to the restaurants and stuff like that. It is really good that people who weren’t following tennis now follow for me,” Berrettini told foxsports.com.au at the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday.
“It is nice that they recognise me and treat me really good, but at the same time, I’m the same guy that I was at the start of last year.
“I don’t want to change the way people see me because I feel like the same guy that I was.”
Berrettini might be the same person, but he definitely isn’t the same player.
He hasn’t made it past the first round of the main draw – he lost to Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas last January and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in his debut appearance in 2018 – but things are different this year.
After reaching the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time in Flushing Meadows, Berrettini is hungry for more in 2020, starting at Melbourne Park next week.
“I didn’t expect that at the US Open, I really didn’t,” he said.
“I don’t come here and think that’s the least I have to do here, because it doesn’t work like that. I realise now that I have the level to play with the best guys in the world.
“It is something that is crazy to think about, but that’s what I did last year. It is me so it is something I can do. My goals this year is to go well in big tournaments.”
Life has changed quickly for Berrettini. So quick, in fact, that he struggles to comprehend the position he now finds himself in.
“It is definitely different this year. I didn’t even realise what I did; it happened that fast,” he said.
“It is quite a fast journey but I’m enjoying it and that’s the most important thing.
“I never thought about the results or winning here or there, it is all about enjoying what I’m doing, working hard with my team and my family. That’s what I want to keep doing. I think that’s my secret.”
Well, the secret is out. But that might not help any of his opponents at the Australian Open.