Italy has a diverse and deep tennis culture with both men and women making their marks on their tours. The country also hosts one of the oldest and most charming red clay tournaments. Playing a local player before a home crowd at the Foro Italico can be a nightmare, but playing Clay court tennis in Rome is arguably one of the highlights of a player’s career.
It says a lot about Italy’s love of sport that Italian tennis, with its own TV station, history of slam champions and hosting the prestigious Italian Open, is only the sixth most popular sport in Italy.
Italy is home to the first tennis club outside of the British territory, the Bordighera tennis club established in 1878.
The Italian Open began in the 1930s and was designed to impress. The tournament is celebrated for its setting and ambience and its red courts and classical statues are one of tennis’ most iconic images.
While tennis was first played on Clay in Italy, like most countries in the last couple of decades, hard courts have risen in popularity and this is reflected in Italian players’ success on the surface with two women reaching the US Open final in 2015, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.
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Matteo Berrettini is a great example of Italian players’ diversity across all playing surfaces. In 2019, he won tournaments on hard, grass and clay courts.
The country is also a hotspot for tennis academies providing the multi surface facilities modern tennis academies are famous for.
Tennis also has its own free to air TV channel, Super Tennis, which is a feature tennis fans around the world would no doubt love to have and which keeps the game in the public eye and helps make the sport accessible.
Italy has had some slam champions and it has consistently featured players at the top end of the game.
Nicola Pietrangeli was the first Italian player to win Grand slams, winning the French Open in 1959 and 1960.
Fabio Fognini has been a regular in the top 20 of the sport for more than a decade now. Fognini is one of just a handful of men who have managed to beat Rafa Nadal three times or more on red Clay. Fognini also came down from two sets to love down to defeat Nadal in the US Open third round in 2015. It was the first time in Nadal’s career he had been beaten after leading two sets to love and ended his impressive 151-0 record.
Italy has a particularly good record in womens’ tennis:
In doubles, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci have won five slam doubles titles.
Other players of note: Adriano Panatta won the French Open in 1976. Panatta managed to defeat Bjorn Borg twice at Roland Garros (1973 and 1976), the only player to ever defeat the Swede in Paris.
Andrea Gaudenzi was a top twenty player in the mid 1990s and in 2020 became the chairman of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
Renzo Furlan reached a career high ranking of No.19 in April 1996 and made the Roland Garros quarter-finals in 1996.
Andreas Seppi has been a top twenty player. He beat Roger Federer in the third round of the 2015 Australian Open, his first victory over the Swiss after ten defeats. It was also Federer’s first exit before the Australian Open quarter-finals since he lost in 2003 fourth round.
Marco Cecchinato defeated Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros 2018 quarter-finals
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Cecchinato’s run to the 2018 Roland Garros semi finals is the only year he has ever won a match at that tournament?
Jannik Sinner, Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti are all considered upcoming #NextGen players. Sinner won the 2019 Next Gen Finals Trophy in Milan.
Italy has won the Davis Cup once, in 1976.
Nicola Pietrangeli holds the record for most all-time Davis Cup wins in singles with a 78-32 win/loss record. He also holds an all-time record in doubles. With his doubles partner Orlando Sirola, he has the most Davis Cup doubles wins with a win-loss record of 34-8
The country has won the Fed Cup four times- 2006,’09, ’10, and ‘13. When Italy won the title back to back in 2009 and 2010, it continued a recent Fed Cup tradition of countries defending their trophy- Italy became the fifth country to successfully retain the title since 1990.
Rome hosts the joint ATP/WTA event in May. This event is one of the biggest on both tours. The tournament has similar conditions to the French Open and is considered a reliable indicator of French Open potential champions.
Turin began hosting the ATP World Tour Finals in 2021.
The Next Gen tournament is held in Milan in the week before the ATP Tour finals.
Clay is the preferred surface in Italy but the Italian Tennis federation has built more hard court surfaces in recent times and this has resulted in success across all surfaces.
Italy has a solid tennis infrastructure across the entire spectrum of tennis development from amateur, junior to professional tennis.
The Italian system is decentralised instead of having a national center where all the best players train. This means talented, promising juniors can stay close to home and enjoy the advantages of close contact with family and friends.
When players graduate from juniors, they have the benefit of living in the country with the second highest number of lower tier tournaments after the USA. In the New York Times, Berrettini stated this accessibility for Italian players saved both money and time.
Ricardo Piatti is one of the country’s top coaches and coaches Italian hope Jannik Sinner. Piatti is on record in The New York Times as saying the best way for young players to develop is to go straight to the ITF and challenger circuits and play with the best players, which is what Sinner did. Sinner has reached back to back French Open fourth rounds as a teenager.
Piatti runs his own tennis academy named the Piatti Tennis Center. The academy is located in Bordighera, which is by the coast and close to the French-Italian border.