Berrettini beats Monfils to reach first U.S. Open semis, Bencic outlasts Vekic

Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian man to reach the U.S. Open semifinals in 42 years on Wednesday to set up a potential showdown with title favorite Rafael Nadal, who resumes his quest for a 19th Grand Slam crown.

Berrettini, the 24th seed, 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.

He will meet the winner of a later match between Spanish three-time U.S. Open champion Nadal and Argentina's Diego Schwartzman for a place in Sunday's final at Flushing Meadows.

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

"I'm really happy, I don't know what to say," said Berrettini, who 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.

"Right now I don't remember any points, just the match point.

"I remember also the double fault (on match point at 5-3). I have to be honest what a great fight. I would like to say congrats to Gael.

"I think when I was playing it was one of the best matches I've ever seen. I was playing but I was watching also."

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic celebrates reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal with a victory over Donna Vekic at the U.S. Open, September 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic celebrates reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal with a victory over Donna Vekic at the U.S. Open, September 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

Meanwhile on the women's side, Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal earlier in the day by defeating Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

Bencic will play Thursday against the winner of a later quarterfinal between Canadian 15th seed Bianca Andreescu and Belgian 25th seed Elise Mertens.

One of them will become a first-time Grand Slam finalist in Saturday's championship match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where first-time Slam winners have been crowned three of the past four years.

"Semifinal feels great right now," Bencic said. "I was dreaming about this day coming but you never know. I worked hard for this. Yeah, very nice feeling."

Bencic, who reached the 2014 U.S. Open quarterfinal, ensured a return to the world rankings top-10 for the first time since June 2016 with the victory.

She sank as low as 328th after numerous injuries and 2017 left wrist surgery but the 22-year-old Swiss began the year 55th and has climbed from there, thanks in part to her third career WTA title in February at Dubai.

"Through the tough times it helped me to see a little different way the tennis when you can't always play," Bencic said. "For me this perspective changed and I'm enjoying so much the tennis now."

Bencic, who has never faced Andreescu or Mertens, improved to 3-1 against her friend Vekic, who ousted her from this year's French Open.

"We're both professionals enough to be friends off the court and competitive on the court," Bencic said. "I think we did well. I'm sure off the court we are friends still."

Bencic, who enjoyed a third-round walkover, knocked out top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round, assuring the Japanese star will be replaced atop the rankings on Monday by French Open champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Source(s): AFP