By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 25, 2022
History maker Matteo Berrettini believes he can be a history breaker against Rafael Nadal.
A bold Berrettini broke to open the fifth set and never looked back fending off Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 to make history as the first Italian man to reach the Australian Open semifinals.
“It makes me super proud. I do not think it’s wrong to say that I like to think that I’m writing a little bit Italian tennis history,” Berrettini said. “We are a great country for tennis. We had in the past some great champions, and it’s an honor for me and a pleasure, like stepping in the court and kind of like having the chance to write these kind of results and achieve such a big, I do not know, results, like I said. “
The Wimbledon finalist has reached semifinals at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments: 2019 US Open, 2021 Wimbledon and this Australian Open.
Since the 2021 Roland Garros, Berrettini has been a world beater against everyone except the world No. 1. Berrettini is 0-3 against Novak Djokovic and 18-0 against everyone else in his last four Slams.
Now, Berrettini aims to halt Rafael Nadal’s run at history in the semifinals.
The 35-year-old Spaniard overcame a queasy stomach and streaky Denis Shapovalov in a five-set fight for his seventh AO semifinal.
“It’s gonna be, I mean, great opportunity again for me,” Berrettini said. “After two years and a half playing this guy that does not need anything more, from my words, for all I said, I watch him so many times in this tournament and other tournaments, cheering for him, and playing with him in Rod Laver in semifinals is something that I dreamed about when I was a kid.
“So I said this, but now I really want to win this match. I know I can do it. It’s gonna be a really tough one. But I’m in the semis in a slam for the third time, like you guys said , so it means that this is my level and I want to get further. “
This quarterfinal clash was a rematch of Berrettini’s dramatic 7-6 in the fifth set win over Monfils that sent the explosive Italian into his first major semifinal in Flushing Meadows.
Berrettini burst out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set winning 12 of 14 points to mute the 20th-ranked Frenchman and vocal pro-Monfils crowd.
It’s the inspired Italian’s second five-set win of the tournament following his 6-2, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10-5) third-round conquest of Carlos Alcaraz that spanned four hours, 10 minutes.
Though Berrettini has more mileage on is legs ahead of Friday’s semifinal vs. 2009 champion Nadal, he’s also a decade younger, has two days of recovery time and is driven by his own quest for history.
Nadal dropped just 11 games beating Berrettini in their lone prior meeting in the 2019 US Open semifinals. Now, Nadal stands six sets from a men’s record 21st major and his first Grand Slam hard-court title since that 2019 Flushing Meadows championship and knows he’s in for a battle against Berrettini.
“Matteo, he’s one of the best players in the world since a while already, no?” Nadal said. “He’s very solid. Yeah, no, no, I need to play my 100 percent and my highest level if I want to keep having chances to fight, to be competitive, and to try to be in the final, no?”