Matteo Berrettini celebrates his epic five-set win over Gael Monfils. (AP: Frank Franklin II)
Matteo Berrettini of Italy advanced to his first grand slam semi-final after nearly four exhausting hours at the US Open, edging Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).
- Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian to reach the US Open semi-finals since 1977
- Berrettini will face Rafael Nadal or Diego Schwartzman in the semi-final
- Belinda Bencic beat Donna Vekic to become the only Swiss player in the semi-finals of this year’s tournament
The 23-year-old Italian finally closed it out on his fifth match point — long after he double-faulted away his first chance — after 3 hours, 57 minutes at Flushing Meadows.
“One of the best matches I ever saw. I was playing, but I was watching, also,” Berrettini said with a smile.
It started under muggy conditions and finished with the roof closed at Arthur Ashe Stadium after rain arrived during the third set.
The short break seemed to benefit Monfils, who is 10 years older and had been leaning on his racket or wiping sweat off his legs between points. He won the fourth set but didn’t have enough left at the finish. The final set of the match took 68 draining minutes to play.
The 24th-seeded Berrettini advanced to his first grand slam semi-final, where he will face number two-seed Rafael Nadal — playing in his 40th grand slam quarter-final — or 20th-seeded Diego Schwartzman.
Berrettini became only the second Italian to reach the final four of the US Open, following Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.
He could’ve done it more easily, but double-faulted for the first time in the match with a weak second serve into the net on his first match point at 5-4.
“I was like this, a little bit tight,” he said during his post-match interview.
A short break seemed to benefit Monfils, but he couldn’t match his younger opponent. (AP: Frank Franklin II)
The other men’s semi-final is already set, with number five-seed Daniil Medvedev facing Grigor Dimitrov, who eliminated five-time US Open champion Roger Federer on Tuesday.
Stan Wawrinka had beaten top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, in the fourth round before losing to Medvedev.
Bencic flies Swiss flag in semi-finals
In the women’s draw, Belinda Bencic knew there was sadness in Switzerland after Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka departed the US Open on the same day.
She did her part to lift some spirts — and might just end up lifting a trophy.
“It would be really nice if the boys could also make it to semi-finals,” Bencic said.
“But I’m happy I can kind of do it for them and don’t let them down.”
Bencic wore down Donna Vekic and advanced to her first grand slam semi-final with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory on Wednesday.
Coming off her upset victory over top-ranked Naomi Osaka in the fourth round, the 12th-seeded Bencic kept up her big hitting and broke open a close match midway through the second set by winning eight straight points.
Trailing 3-2 in the set, that sent her into the lead and Vekic never recovered, with Bencic winning the final four games to surpass her 2014 run to the US Open quarter-finals as a 17-year-old for her best performance in a major tournament.
“Even when you are playing bad, you want to come back to this feeling. You want to eventually get the big wins and have these nice feelings,” said Bencic, whose torrid run with injuries has limited her chances at the pointy end of grand slam tournaments in the subsequent five years.
Bencic advanced to play either 15th-seed Bianca Andreescu or 25th-seed Elise Mertens. Six-time US Open champion Serena Williams faces fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the other semi-final.
Vekic, seeded 23rd, was also seeking her first semi-final in a major tournament. But with her face bright red as the sun beat down on Arthur Ashe Stadium, she couldn’t keep up with her friend’s power during the biggest moments of the match.
“I think she was just playing better tennis overall today,” Vekic said.
“I felt like I couldn’t get three good points together. I was, like, playing one point good, then bad.”