Three-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal overcame a game opponent in 20th seed Diego Schwartzman, moving past the Argentine 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 to secure the final spot in the semifinals.
“He’s one of the best players of the world. When he’s playing well, he’s able to win against everybody,” Nadal said of his quarterfinal opponent. “Tonight was for me a tough match. I’m very happy for the victory.”
Nadal looked to make quick work of Schwartzman as he raced out to a 4-0 lead. But Schwartzman flipped the script, breaking Nadal as he served for a 5-0 lead, and rattled off four straight games to, much to the shock of the crowd and commentators, even the set at 4-4.
After a Nadal hold, however, Schwartzman was broken serving to stay in the set, and the second-seeded Spaniard grabbed the early lead.
The second set got off to a similar start, with Nadal bolting out to another double-break lead, only to see the feisty Argentine bring the set back on serve. Once again, though, Schwartzman would be broke trying to stay in the set, this time at 5-6, and Nadal would take a commanding two-sets-to-love lead.
In the third set, Nadal won 91 percent of his first serve points and, this time, did not allow Schwartzman to work his way back into the set, and closed out the win in straight sets.
He moves into a matchup with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
“I need to be ready to play my best tennis. Today I make a step forward, in my opinion. That match give me confidence,” said Nadal. “Two matches in a row against two tough opponents. That's a moment to increase a little bit more the level, and I really believe that I can do it.”
The 24th seeded Berrettini outlasted Gael Monfils of France in what was perhaps the best match of the 2019 US Open thus far, reaching the semifinals with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory after nearly four hours on Wednesday afternoon.
As he watched the final point of the match go out, the 24th seed fell to the court and laid there for a few moments before greeting Monfils at the net.
“That’s why I fell down on the court. I mean, it’s my first [Grand Slam] semis. I never won a match here at US Open, so it’s my second year in the main draw. I didn’t expect that,” he said. “I had so many chances. I served for the match, I had two match points...It was an unbelievable fight. I was tired.”
The humidity in New York City coupled with the five-set epic left both players fatigued and doubled over at times, with each having their moments of nerves with the match on the line.
First it was the Italian, who had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the deciding fifth set, but a double-fault on matchpoint allowed Monfils back into it. The 13th seeded Frenchman broke, and had to save two more match points on his own serve as a quarterfinal of this quality was destined to be decided by a final set tiebreaker.
Berrettini jumped ahead early in the breaker and brought up another match point at 6-4, only to see it go by the wayside once more. But that would be all the magic Monfils could muster, as Berrettini sealed the victory on the next point to become the first Italian man into the US Open semifinals since Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.
Asked about Italian tennis here at the US Open afterwards, Berrettini said he remembers the all-Italian final on the women’s side in 2015 between Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.
“I remember watching the finals here. I was in Italy playing a Futures tournament...It was unbelievable. I remember President Giovanni Malago coming to watch the match,” said Berrettini. “For sure it was an inspiration...Actually, Flavia texted me today. So she was really happy for me, she told me to keep going.”
It will be the first meeting between the Italian and the Spaniard, and a spot in the US Open finals hangs in the balance.