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Nadal vs Berrettini tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Nadal targets tenth US Open final against inexperienced Italian

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 6 Sep 2019
  • Rafael Nadal faces Matteo Berrettini in the semifinals of the US Open
  • Nadal vs Berrettini is live from the US Open on Friday at 6pm local/11pm BST
Rafael Nadal (PA Sports)

Closing in on a fourth US Open title, Rafael Nadal looks in fearsome form as he heads into a semifinal clash with young challenger Matteo Berrettini. 

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Rafael Nadal looks to book his place in the final of the US Open for the fifth time – can Matteo Berrettini, a fast-rising Italian playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal, find a way to stop him?

Not all that many people would have necessarily pegged Nadal to be the last member of the Big 3 standing at the US Open – the last Grand Slam champion full stop – but he is now the overwhelming favourite to claim the title. Apart from anything else, there is a vast advantage in experience on his side; he will be playing in the 34th Grand Slam semifinal of his career on Friday. The other three men who make up the final four have, collectively, reached two.

Should Nadal reach a fifth US Open final, he will have tied John McEnroe’s record and officially be in joint sixth place on the Open Era leaderboard of US Open finals reached. If he wins the title, he’ll break the tie with Novak Djokovic and Ivan Lendl and equal McEnroe’s haul of four US Open titles, second only to the three players who have each won five (Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer). But none of that matters as much as the opportunity, now within touching distance, of winning his 19th Grand Slam title and narrowing the gap on Federer’s career haul of 20.

Nadal was on fearsome form against Schwartzman (PA Sports)
It’s not a foregone conclusion, of course. Nadal would resist any such suggestion. But the fact that he, at the age of 33, has reached the semifinals of all four majors in one season for the first time since 2008 speaks volumes about the general level of play he’s attained – and sustained – since January despite injury issues. And after perfect preparation for the US Open – winning the Canada Masters and then pulling out of Cincinnati – it’s hard to see how his campaign in New York could have gone much more smoothly. He benefited from a second-round walkover, and has dropped just one set in total, against former champion Marin Cilic; this is not like last year, when he came into the closing stages worn out from lengthy, punishing duels with Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov and had to retire against Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal did call for the trainer during his match against Diego Schwartzman, but it was clarified later that it was a touch of cramp rather than anything more serious – unsurprising on such a very humid night.

‘I'm feeling good. Today was very humid day, very heavy day. I had some cramps in the end of the second, and, yeah, first five games, six games of the third,’ Nadal said.

‘And then I take some salt, that's all, and then was over. Well, the body is in good shape, I think.’

The scoreline of Nadal’s 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman does belie how hard-fought the match was, with Nadal up a double break in both of the first two sets before the Argentine doggedly surged back, and the whole thing taking nearly three hours (two hours and 48 minutes, to be exact). At the same time, the result was never remotely in doubt as Nadal improved to 8-0 vs Schwartzman: The 21st best player in the world played just about to the absolute top of his level, and still he couldn’t get a set.

‘I need to be ready to play my best tennis. Today I make a step forward, in my opinion,’ Nadal said. 

‘That match give me confidence. 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, and I hope.’

None of this bodes very well for Matteo Berrettini, who might be finding that a bit of the euphoria that attended his quarterfinal win over Gael Monfils is draining away as he contemplates taking on Nadal for the first time on Friday.

It’s been an incredible breakthrough year for Berrettini, who was ranked outside the top 60 this time last year after losing in the first round of the US Open to Denis Kudla on his main-draw debut. 

Matteo Berrettini (PA Sports)
The 23-year-old Italian, one of a crop benefiting from the investment in Italian tennis after the achievements of the generation of female players above them, led of course by 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, is 39-15 in 2019, winning titles on all surfaces (albeit at Challenger level on hard courts). Despite being troubled by an injury in August – he only played one match between Wimbledon and the US Open, and that was a defeat to Juan Ignacio Londero in Cincinnati – Berrettini has found a rich vein of form here, beating unseeded but extremely tough opponents like the resurgent Richard Gasquet and the in-form Andrey Rublev, who was reduced to total helplessness as Berrettini scientifically dismantled him.

Up against Gael Monfils on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday, in front of an electrified crowd, Berrettini showed both that his time has come for a spotlight moment, and his rawness and inexperience at this level, as he won through 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5). The three-hour, 56-minute match took too many twists and turns to chronicle, and most of them were, I think, attributable to Monfils’s level surging and plunging – Berrettini played pretty consistently, and pretty consistently well, at that. The real high drama came at the end, when, having broken to lead 5-4 in the fifth set and serving for the match, Berrettini worked his way to match point – and double-faulted, in the limpest style imaginable.

Whether Berrettini would have been able to bounce back from that, and from the three subsequent match points he was unable to convert at 5-6 and in the ensuing tie-break, without Monfils also breaking out in a sudden rash of double faults, is a moot point. But he did get over the line, and did it by playing the way he had done the whole match: Landing big serves, setting up his forehand down the line, and using his backhand slice to defang Monfils.

This won’t work against Nadal. Berrettini, even if he handles his nerves better than he did in the 1-6, 2-6, 2-6 shellacking he underwent at Federer’s hands at Wimbledon, is going to find – like so many men before him – that his weaker backhand wing is ruthlessly exposed by Nadal’s devastating left-handed forehand. You can’t get through a match against Nadal by slicing the backhand – something it’s taken Federer years to learn; you have to come over it, and drive through it, and be able to hurt him with it. Add in Nadal’s supreme defense and incredible topspin, and Berrettini’s going to find himself constantly pushed back behind the baseline into a position where it’s difficult, if not impossible, to hurt Nadal. I’m not saying Berrettini will never beat Nadal, but with where his game is now, unless injury intervenes from out of nowhere, Nadal will win in straight sets to book his place in a tenth US Open final.

Nadal vs Berrettini US Open tennis is live from New York on Friday at 6pm local/11pm BST

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Nadal vs Berrettini tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Nadal targets tenth US Open final against inexperienced Italian

Rafael Nadal vs Matteo Berrettini live streaming, preview and predictions for the US Open semifinal match on Friday 6 September: Nadal should be able to expose Berrettini’s backhand and overcome the fast-rising Italian as he closes in on a fourth US Open title

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