When Italian Mattia Bellucci earned his first Pepperstone ATP Rankings points in 2018, the youngster relished seeing his name amongst the stars he watched on TV, such as his idol, Rafael Nadal.
This season, the 21-year-old added his name to a new list. Bellucci advanced through qualifying en route to capturing his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title at the Saint-Tropez Challenger in October. He didn’t stop there.
At the Vilnius Challenger, the lefty dropped just one set all week en route to claiming back-to-back titles. Winning 12 straight matches was a welcome sight to Bellucci.
“I remember playing my first Futures in 2017 or 2018 and I got my first two [ranking] points and it felt amazing,” Bellucci said. “Being in the same rankings as my idols, even if I was like 1,000 something, it felt special.
“I started this season  around 680 in the rankings. I was playing only Futures events, it was a good start. At the beginning of the season, I was also a bit stressed because of how it would go with my new coach [Fabio Chiappini]. I’m super, super happy with the level I’ve played at.”
After claiming five ITF Futures titles in the first half of the year, Bellucci transitioned to the Challenger Tour and found quick success. The title in Saint-Tropez, France was Bellucci’s eighth Challenger event.
Bellucci is one of seven Italian #NextGenATP youngsters who have claimed a Challenger title in 2022: Matteo Arnaldi, Flavio Cobolli, Francesco Maestrelli, Lorenzo Musetti, Luca Nardi, and Francesco Passaro have also triumphed this season. Bellucci and Nardi, who has three Challenger titles this year, are the only Italian #NextGenATP players to score multiple Challenger titles in 2022.
“When I won the tournament in Saint-Tropez, I felt super, super tired,” Bellucci said. “I had to travel the same day to home and the day after to Vilnius. I said, ‘Okay it could be a first round [loss]’. Because when you win a tournament playing seven matches with such a good level and then going indoors, and without practising indoors once before the tournament. I was super stressed because I was coming from a win and I said, ‘Okay, let’s see how it goes!’”
“To double up in Vilnius was super special. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t even playing Challengers. When I won, I said to myself, ‘Now, something changes!’”
Mattia Bellucci poses with the ballkids at the 2022 Saint-Tropez Challenger. Credit: Alexander Hergott
Bellucci became the youngest Italian to win Challenger titles in back-to-back weeks since 19-year-old Stefano Pescosolido in 1991. Hailing from a country rich in tennis history, Bellucci hopes to combine with the other Italian youngsters to continue the country’s long success.
With three Italians in the Top 25 (Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner, Musetti) of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Bellucci looks to follow a similar path as his close friend, Musetti, to climb up the rankings.
“We are simulating each other,” Bellucci said. “I know Musetti really well. We played the same tournaments when we were younger, but he was way better than me so he went up first.
“I’m like, ‘Okay, if we had the same past, playing the same tournaments when we were younger, then why not [me]?’ We [Italy] have a lot of younger players, ages 20-22 who play at a really high level.”
Mattia Bellucci in action at the 2022 Vilnius Challenger. Credit: Saulius Čirba
Born and raised in Busto Arsizio, which is near Milan, Bellucci started playing tennis at four-years-old with his father, who coached at a local club. His father, Fabrizio, coached him until the start of the 2022 season, when Mattia started working with Fabio Chiappini. Both coaches have played a key role in developing Mattia into the player he is today.
“I think I’m a good server for the height I have,” Bellucci said. “I always love to variate, starting with the slice, being aggressive, especially on hard courts. My groundstrokes are at a different height. My backhand is super flat and my forehand has a lot of spin.”
Boasting a 15-9 Challenger-match record in 2022, Bellucci is set to close out his season at the Helsinki and Andria Challengers before embarking on chasing his goal for the 2023 season: cracking the Top 100.