Berrettini out with COVID-19 on day to remember for Australian men

By Scott Spits
Updated June 29, 2022 — 6.56amfirst published June 28, 2022 — 10.23pm

London: Cases of COVID-19 are starting to shape the Wimbledon’s men’s draw after last year’s finalist, tournament fancy Matteo Berrettini, joined Marin Cilic on the sidelines.

The stage is set for a bolter to surge through the bottom half of the men’s singles and push for finals spot.

Italian world No.11 Berrettini was one of the hottest players on grass coming into the championships after tournament wins in Stuttgart, Germany, and last week at Queen’s.

Berrettini, 26, said he was “heartbroken” at having to miss his chance at a title shot after reaching the final last year, which he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets.

“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” Berrettini said on social media, explaining that he had experienced mild symptoms recently.

“The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger.”

Berrettini’s spot has been taken by Elias Ymer, but the Swedish lucky loser succumbed to Chilean Cristian Garin on Tuesday.

Likewise, 2017 runner-up Cilic pulled out due to coronavirus on the weekend, with his spot snatched by lucky loser Nuno Borges.


“I am sad to share that I tested positive for COVID,” Cilic said on Instagram.

“I have been self-isolating and was hopeful I would be ready, but unfortunately, I am still feeling unwell and unable to compete at my best.”

Alex De Minaur is safely through to the second round of a Wimbledon men’s draw which is rapidly opening up.

Alex De Minaur is safely through to the second round of a Wimbledon men’s draw which is rapidly opening up.Credit:Getty

Spanish great and second seed Rafael Nadal headlines his half of the draw and Stefanos Tsitsipas looms large, but there’s a host of players capable of making a charge to the final. Australia’s Alex de Minaur, Argentine Diego Schwartzman and American Taylor Fritz are among those who have already reached the second round.

There’s also the prominent name of Nick Kyrgios, but the controversial Australian needed five sets to edge past British qualifier Paul Jubb.

Cases of COVID-19 for Berrettini and Cilic have sparked concern that more will follow and this year’s Wimbledon, already impacted by the ban on players from Russia and Belarus, will be hit by withdrawals.

Fresh off his four-set win over Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, Nadal downplayed any concerns about succumbing to the virus after he hit with Berrettini last week.

“[It’s] difficult to be a close contact when you are outside, when you are practising,” Nadal said.

“For the moment I am feeling great, no problems at all.

“Main thing is I feel very sorry for him because he was playing fantastic, winning two tournaments before the tournament start. He’s a very good colleague on tour. We know each other well.”

Kubler’s strong year continues, Saville out early

Australian qualifier Jason Kubler dumped Brit Dan Evans out to continue a landmark mid-year period for the former junior world No.1

Other Australian winners included Nick Kyrgios, Jordan Thompson, Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic.

Jason Kubler.

Jason Kubler.Credit:Getty

Kubler won in straight sets against 28th seed Evans, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. It was his first tour win on grass and followed on from his effort to qualify for last month’s French Open and reach the second round.

Asked about his status as a newfound “Aussie battler”, Kubler said: “I’m happy to be called that. I’m happy to be called anything to be honest.

“Just the fact that people are talking about me – I don’t really mind what they’re saying.”

The Queenslander said his current run of form came in the context of a sound mental approach.

“Even the week before qualifying [at Roland Garros] I was able to make a semi-final at the challenger [event],” he said.

“From then [until] to definitely US Open last year I wasn’t getting past second round at challengers.
I was maybe in a rough patch.

“For it to turn so dramatically, to go from not winning many matches at all to just winning, or winning a lot more [is pleasing].

“The way I see it now is that if I win it’s good obviously but if I can have a great mental performance (and) win or lose, that’s sort of my win.”

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios returns the ball to Paul Jubb.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios returns the ball to Paul Jubb.Credit:AP

Young gun Alexei Popyrin had a heart-breaking five-set loss to Frenchman Hugo Gaston.

Popyrin was down and out after getting beaten 6-2, 4-6, 0-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 by the talented Frenchman.

Popyrin was serving for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set when Gaston rallied to fight back and win after just over three hours.

Asked if it was the most disappointing loss he had endured, Popyrin sounded emotional: “To lose like this was tough and I haven’t experienced this at such a high level, serving for the match and not closing it out.

“But my coach was telling me [Roger] Federer was 40-15 up, serving for the Wimbledon title against [Novak] Djokovic, so I have to learn from it and I’ll come back from it and react a bit better if that ever happens again.”

Another Australian wildcard, Daria Saville, lost in the first round, the world No. 98 taking Bulgarian opponent Viktoriya Tomova to three sets on court six.

Reigniting her career this year after an Achilles injury, Saville reached the third round at last month’s French Open, helping the Russian-born player secure a Wimbledon wildcard.

But the 28-year-old let some chances slip against Tomova, going down 5-7, 6-3, 5-7.

Tomova will next play fifth seed Maria Sakkari, the Greek player having the better of Australian qualifier Zoe Hives, winning 6-1, 6-4 in 68 minutes.

Tomljanovic flew the flag for the Australian women, with Saville and Hives joined by Astra Sharma and Jaimee Fourlis in exiting on Tuesday.

Australians James Duckworth, John Millman, Maddison Inglis and Max Purcell went out on day one, with Thanasi Kokkinakis the only victor on Monday.

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Watch all the action from Wimbledon ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport, with matches streaming in 4K UHD from June 27. Coverage of select matches commences on 9GEM from 7.30pm (AEST) each night.

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