Rafael Nadal will compete in the fifth US Open final of his career after downing 24th seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-1 inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night.
Once again displaying the competitive fire that has fueled his career for nearly two decades, Nadal needed to use all of it to come out on top in the match’s opening set.
“The first set was a little frustrating because I had a lot of break points before the tiebreak and he didn’t have any. In the tiebreak I was a little lucky because he had 5-2 and 4-0. But I sruvived at that moment and I finally got the break in the second and then the match completely changed,” said Nadal. “I started to play with more calm and be more aggressive. I’m super happy to be back in the final of the US Open.”
After failing to capitalize on six break point chances in the opening set, Nadal found himself in trouble in the ensuing tiebreak. Berrettini won the first four points, and even had a set point on serve. But a missed drop shot erased that set point, and created the only opening Nadal needed. He continued to be a wall and absorbed all of Berrettini’s pace until the Italian committed a couple more unforced errors, and Nadal captured the first set.
Nadal continued to try and pounce on Berrettini’s service games in the second set, and claimed the only break point of the frame for a 4-3 lead, and went on to serve out the set. With Nadal having taken the wind out of the sails of the Italian, he made sure to win this one in straight sets, hitting 11 winners and committing just three unforced errors in the third set to advance in two hours and 35 minutes.
“Of course, very, very happy for everything. Another final of a Grand Slam, and another final here in Flushing Meadows means a lot to me,” added Nadal. “So happy.”
Standing in the way of Nadal and a 19th career major title is fifth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, whose outstanding summer continued on Friday as he ousted Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-3 in the day’s first semifinal.
Despite having 40 unforced errors, Medvedev was unrelenting in absorbing and returning everything Dimitrov threw at him, resulting in the Bulgarian committing 46 unforced errors of his own.
The win was Medvedev’s 50th of the season, which leads the tour.
“When I came to the USA, I didn’t know that it would be this good,” said Medvedev, who reached the finals in Washington, D.C. and Montreal before capturing the Cincinnati title. “I have to say, I love the USA.”
In that Montreal final, it was Nadal who defeated Medevdev, doing so routinely 6-3, 6-0.
Sunday’s final will be a rematch of that Montreal final in an intriguing matchup of two players who are at different points in their career, but the two players who have been the best on tour this season.
“It’s a super tough final. I need to be playing at my best,” said Nadal. “I think at the end of the match I increased my level again today. I need to hold this level if I want to have a chance on Sunday.”