Nadal closes in on 19th major title as Andreescu sets up Bencic semis clash - GulfToday

Nadal closes in on 19th major title as Andreescu sets up Bencic semis clash

Nadal closes in on 19th major title as Andreescu sets up Bencic semis clash

Matteo Berrettini celebrates a point against Gael Monfils during their US Open quarter-final match on Thursday. Reuters

New York: Rafael Nadal will play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the US Open semi-finals after the 18-time Grand Slam champion defeated Argentine 20th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Second seed Nadal -- a winner at Flushing Meadows in 2010, 2013 and 2017 -- beat a spirited Schwartzman for the eighth time in as many meetings in a nearly three-hour match that finished early Thursday morning.

Schwartzman put up firm resistance against Nadal and twice fought back from double-break deficits in the first two sets, but the Spaniard found another gear at crucial moments to secure an eighth semi-final berth in New York.

“Straight sets but big challenges especially after the first two sets, having 4-0 and 5-1 and losing both breaks in a row, but I know how good he is when he’s confident,” Nadal said.

“I’m so happy how I accepted the situation and challenge and kept going, point after point. Here I am in the semi-finals. I’m super happy, it means everything.”

Nadal, who was forced to retire during last year’s semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro, played down concerns over his left forearm as he received treatment early in the third set.

Nadal is the only former major champion left in the men’s field following the elimination of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, leaving him as the clear frontrunner in his pursuit of a 19th major title. Berrettini, the 24th seed, became the first Italian man to reach the US Open semi-finals in 42 years.

He matched Corrado Barazzutti’s run to the last four in 1977 after outlasting 13th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) in three hours and 57 minutes.

The 23-year-old Berrettini joined Barazzutti, 1976 Roland Garros champion Adriano Panatta and Marco Cecchinato as just the fourth Italian to advance to a men’s Grand Slam semi-final in singles.

“What a great fight. I think it was one of the best matches I maybe ever saw -- I was playing but I also saw. I’m really happy I don’t know what to say,” Berrettini said.

The first-time Slam quarter-finalist blew a 5-2 lead in the final set and four match points before finally seeing off Monfils in a thriller at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Meamwhile, Canadian Bianca Andreescu became the first teen US Open semi-finalist in a decade, rallying to defeat Belgium’s Elise Mertens on Wednesday and advance to a last-four matchup with Belinda Bencic.

Andreescu, a 19-year-old from suburban Toronto, downed 25th seed Mertens 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to book a Thursday clash against fellow Slam semi-final debutante Bencic, the Swiss 13th seed who beat Croatian 23rd seed Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

“I’m honestly speechless,” Andreescu said. “I need someone to pinch me right now. Is this real life?”

Serena Williams, seeking her 24th Grand Slam singles title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record, faces Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina in Thursday’s other semi.

Either Bencic or Andreescu, who have never played each other, will reach her first Slam final on Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where first-time Slam winners have been crowned three of the past four years.

Andreescu, a winner this year at Indian Wells and Toronto, is the first teen in the US Open’s last four since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009.

She credited being tested in her wins with giving her the poise to battle back after dropping the first set against a foe who had not dropped a set in the tournament.

“I think it’s just the experience from playing these huge events this past year,” she said.

“All that experience is just catching up.”

Andreescu could become the first teen to win a Grand Slam title since Maria Sharapova captured the 2006 US Open and she would be the youngest US Open champion since Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2004.

Agence France-Presse