Andy Murray lost to Matteo Berrettini in the Stuttgart final after a thrilling three-set battle, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
The Scot had a decent run at the Wimbledon warmup tournament, cruising in his last two matches to beat top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals, then Nick Kyrgios in the semis.
Though Kyrgios brought his customary power, exacerbated by the fast grass court conditions, Murray remained solid from the line, calmly putting balls back into play.
Kyrgios bombed down a total of 11 aces to Murray’s 9, but the Scot played a more consistent game, winning 85% of his first service points compared to his opponent’s 75%.
Kyrgios successfully pulled Murray wide with a flat forehand, then deployed a killer drop-shot or other trick shots.
However, more generally, the Scot took time constructing his points, either waiting for an error or patiently rallying from the baseline, gradually pushing Kyrgios back until he hit a winner into open space.
Murray won in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2.
Murray vs Kyrgios, 2022 Stuttgart Semi-Finals
Berrettini had not played a tournament since losing in the Indian Wells round of 16. A hand injury forced him to skip the clay-court season, though he has now made a winning return.
Berrettini’s grass-court credentials are strong, reaching the 2021 Wimbledon final against Djokovic and taking the first set, 7-6.
He has been a past champion of Stuttgart in 2019 and Queen’s in 2021. The combination of fast serving, a reliable baseline game, and decent volleying has kept the Italian in the top 10 since October 2019.
His serving was formidable against Murray, firing 19 aces to his opponent’s 7.
From the baseline, Berrettini effectively used his sharp backhand slice, digging into the court and eliciting a weaker response from Murray.
Berrettini would then move onto the front foot, hitting powerful groundstrokes from both wings. Murray would be pushed onto one side before the Italian hit a winner, usually on the forehand.
Berrettini took the return of serve very early, denying Murray the chance to recover and placing him on the back foot from the start of the rally.
Berrettini’s return game was so aggressive that he could win 34% of first-serve return points compared with Murray’s 19%. Crucially, Berrettini converted 3/10 of break point opportunities to Murray’s 1/5.
Berrettini vs Murray, 2022 Stuttgart Final
The Italian comfortably won the first set 6-4, but Murray could fight back and win the second set 5-7.
At 4-all in the second on 30-40, Murray defended break-point, serving wide to his opponent’s backhand, who was forced back and hit an error.
Later, on Murray’s advantage after an extended rally, his superb movement that aided him during the quarter and semi-final matches helped defend against Berrettini’s deep return and potent inside-out forehand.
Murray gingerly moved across the court, gradually hitting with more angles from both wings and again pushed Berrettini back.
The Italian tried to take advantage of an opening down the line but ended up uncharacteristically slicing the ball into the net.
Once the third set began, Berrettini swiftly reasserted his dominance. He shortened points, either hitting aces or serves so precise that Murray made an error into the net. Berrettini also used serve-plus-one tactics, hitting a kick serve to Murray’s backhand before sweeping a forehand winner into the ad-side.
When Murray was on the defensive, Berrettini would be alert and move forward to volley the ball away rather than engage in another extended rally. Berrettini ultimately stormed the last set, winning it 6-3.
Can Berrettini replicate his success at Wimbledon for another final appearance? Can Murray regroup in time for Queen’s? And what does Stuttgart tell us more generally about the rest of the upcoming grass-court season? Leave your comments below.