Italy offers passionate fans, a host of off-court adventures and some of the world’s most renowned sporting events. So what is it about the country that this year’s Nitto ATP Finals doubles stars most enjoy?
Who enjoys pineapple on pizza, and who considers it ‘a sin’? Who sort-of remembers The Italian Job but would rather watch The Godfather anyway? And which TWO doubles stars claim to be at least capable when it comes to making lasagne? ATPTour.com sat down with the four pairs competing in Red Group to find out…
What is your best on-court memory in Italy?
Wesley Koolhof: I think the crowd is very passionate here, also for doubles. Rome is also full, here [in Turin] there is a good crowd for doubles, especially last year. Hopefully this year too. Obviously, [Jannik] Sinner is playing this year, so I think the ticket sales went through the roof. [Neal Skupski and I] made it to the semis last year, so I have a lot of good memories from last year [here in Turin].
Rinky Hijikata: I won a 12-and-under tournament in Italy and I think it’s been pretty downhill since then!… The tournament I won was in Trieste and then I made the semis in Porto San Giorgio. It was pretty cool. It was one of the first times I played on clay. I was 12 at the time, and it was just a really cool experience, just getting to see all the European players also. When you’re so far away in Australia, it was a cool experience. And I’ve loved coming back to Italy ever since.
Rajeev Ram: I’ve never really done all that well in Italy except for here, so I’m going to go with winning this tournament last year.
What is your favourite off-court aspect of being in Italy?
Neal Skupski: The food here is unbelievable. It’s not good for our weight. The amount of burrata we’ve been eating this week is not good for us. It’s a good job that it’s nearly the end of the season. Not just here [in Turin], but also in Rome when we play the ATP Masters 1000. It can be a tough couple of weeks with the waistline.
Ram: Taverna Trilussa is this restaurant in Rome that we quite like, so I go there every year. I’m not much for going out for dinners, but I make sure I hit up that place every year in Rome. The cacio e pepe, the ravioli, is quite special.
Matthew Ebden: I love Turin. I think it’s really unique. It’s really chic, really cosmopolitan. I love the buildings, the architecture, the classy shops, but it’s still intimate and small enough where it’s all walking distance. Beautiful history and statues, new shops and boutiques and just got a really good balance. I’ve really enjoyed it actually.
Jason Kubler: The food here is just on a different level. It seems every time you get a pasta, it’s always cooked the way you like it. The pizzas are obviously unbelievable and then a lot of people [talk about] the ice creams and the gelato.
Doubles Stars Ready For Nitto ATP Finals
If you had the choice would you visit the Colosseum in Rome or climb Mount Vesuvius?
Joe Salisbury: Probably Mount Vesuvius. I’m more of a nature person than a city person, plus I haven’t done that. I have been to the Colosseum, although I haven’t actually been inside it.
Rohan Bopanna: The Colosseum for me because there it’s going to be a little bit warmer.
Ram: I really like the history in Rome, the buildings and the different things, all the relics that are there from however long ago. I think I find that quite nice to look at, just to visit the Colosseum and stuff.
Koolhof: I didn’t go to Mount Vesuvius yet, I’d probably go there just to try it.
Which film would you rather watch, The Godfather or The Italian Job?
Skupski: The Godfather for me, because I haven’t seen The Italian Job! It’s the one with all the little minis driving around the city, right?
Bopanna: The Godfather without a doubt, there’s no question. I’ve watched it over and over again.
Ebden: I’ve watched The Italian Job just as much [as Rohan has seen The Godfather]. I love the heist and the fast cars and the strategies.
Kubler: I have watched The Italian Job, but that was out a while ago. [I probably saw] the one from the early 2000s.
Would you rather watch a Serie A football match or the historic Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Koolhof: I’ve been to Juventus here in Turin. I’ve never seen Formula 1 live. It could be a nice experience, and there is a Dutch guy, [Max Verstappen] doing pretty well. Monza would be nice, or Imola, but I also wouldn’t mind going to AC Milan v Inter Milan.
Ebden: I’m addicted to watches and my favourite watchmaker sponsor the Williams racing team. So I’m at the Formula 1 for sure.
Hijikata: It depends on the game. If it was a Champions League game or something, I’d probably take that. If it was a regular season game. I’d probably take the F1.
Favourite pizza topping? Is there any topping you won’t touch?
Bopanna: I wouldn’t touch pineapples on pizza, but I love great burrata cheese on a pizza. It gives it a little bit of extra flavour.
Ebden: Quattro Stagioni. Four seasons, variety is the spice of life!
Hijikata: Buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto. It’s my go-to… I don’t mind [pineapple] on pizza but I’d never ask for it in Italy. I feel like that’s a sin here!
Koolhof: Normally I go prosciutto, mushrooms and rucola. Have to get some green stuff on it! I like pineapple, actually. It’s always a tough one, but Hawaiian pizza, I like.
Which Italian dish can you cook best?
Salisbury: I can make a decent lasagna, with normal beef mince. Traditional. I like it quite tomatoey, not too cheesy.
Hijikata: I tried to cook a carbonara once and it went alright. A traditional carbona.
Skupski: I do cook a good lasagne. I don’t put it in the microwave! It’s a recipe that’s been passed down from my mum or my nan. I really enjoy it… Minced beef, pasta, cheese, the usual stuff. Not anything special, but I really like it. Maybe other people don’t…