Berrettini Holds Firm To Down Foki In 5-Set Epic
Like many before him, Matteo Berrettini found there was no easy way past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the US Open on Sunday. Yet the Italian demonstrated his own ability to dig deep as he prevailed 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the pair’s fourth-round clash at the hard-court Grand Slam.
After a slow start that saw him trailing by a set and a break, Berrettini looked to have taken control of the three-hour, 45-minute encounter after finding rhythm behind his serve and huge forehand, but Davidovich Fokina responded to some raucous support from the stands to storm back with a stirring fourth-set showing that forced a decider on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“I’m really proud because I didn’t start the match the way I wanted to,” said Berrettini in his on-court interview. “I was down a set and a break… and I found the right energy. I have to say I was a little bit tired in the fourth, and he was playing unbelievable tennis. So, I lost the fourth, and I was like, ‘OK, now I’m going to give everything’.
Berrettini, who missed Roland Garros and Wimbledon this season, was finally able to shake off the challenge of the World No. 39 in the fifth set by breaking Davidovich Fokina's serve three times. The Spaniard’s ability to mount a late comeback was hindered after he twisted his knee when serving at 1-4 in the decider, but despite twice receiving treatment from the physio he returned to court on both occasions to fight to the end in front of an enraptured crowd.
Berrettini nonetheless kept his cool to complete the win and level his ATP Head2Head series against Davidovich Fokina at 1-1. With Sunday's victory, the 26-year-old Berrettini reached the quarter-finals for his fifth consecutive Grand Slam appearance. He will next face fifth seed Casper Ruud, who ended the dream run of lucky loser Corentin Moutet with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2 triumph.
The win improved Berrettini’s record in New York to 16-4, but the Italian admitted he had found the changeable conditions so far this fortnight a unique challenge.
“I like to play in these conditions, I love to play here in New York, but it’s changing a lot," said the 2019 semi-finalist. "Two days ago against [Andy] Murray it wasn’t humid, so it changed a lot. This morning I was sweating, I was like ‘Wow’. Today had to drink a lot and that’s what I did. I did a couple of weeks training really hard before the tournament, so I was ready, and I guess it paid off.”
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Davidovich Fokina had dominated the early stages of the fourth-round clash, striking the ball with purpose to pressure Berrettini’s groundstrokes and avoid the Italian’s booming forehand whenever possible. Some inspired returning earned the Spaniard a break for a 6-3, 3-2 lead, but he followed that with a poor service game that appeared to spark Berrettini into life.
The Italian rallied to level the match in a tie-break, but while his momentum also saw him claim the second set, Davidovich Fokina’s heroics kept the 13th seed alert until the very end. Berrettini's eventual victory improved his record in five-set matches at the US Open to 3-0.