The second seed has struggled with an abdominal injury, which forced him to withdraw in Melbourne ahead of his fourth-round match. This is just his second tournament since, and last week he lost his Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters opener against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
“First of all I’m happy to be back on the court,” Berrettini said. “It was tough for me. I never had this kind of injury, so I didn’t really know how it would get better, get worse. It was tough. Also mentally, it’s not easy to go and serve full [on] when you know that something happened there.
“But I’m happy now. I’m happy with my performance and also for my physical conditioning. I think it’s good. In this moment, with my team, we said that I have to play as many matches as possible, so that is what we are trying to do.”
The Last Time… With Matteo Berrettini
But Berrettini’s performance against the 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist was a step towards his best form. The World No. 10 broke Cecchinato’s serve three times and saved all three break points he faced to advance after one hour and 21 minutes.
Berrettini did not overplay against the gritty World No. 93. Instead, he played with heavy topspin deep in the court to push Cecchinato back, and that paid dividends in the key rallies.
Before his injury, Berrettini got off to a strong start to his 2021 season. The Italian earned three Top 15 wins to lead his country to the final of the ATP Cup.
“Confidence is something that goes away, it comes back. For sure I know that is my level. I know that I can play that kind of tennis,” Berrettini said. “I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It obviously was a shame. I was sad about my injury, but I know that I can play and I can play well on clay, on grass, on hard.
“It’s just about time. I need time to be back, to be back at my best shape. But I think today was a big step in that direction.”
The Italian will next play home favourite fifth seed Filip Krajinovic, who beat countryman Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1. Berrettini beat Krajinovic in their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in the Budapest final in 2019.
“It’s going to be very tough. He’s Top 10, he’s a huge champion,” Krajinovic said. “He’s very tough to play against. I played him once in the final of an ATP [Tour event] and he beat me, so I know how to play. It’s going to be very tricky, very tough, but I will give my best playing on my court. We’ll see how it goes.”