QF Preview: Nadal vs. Schwartzman, Monfils vs. Berrettini
Diego Schwartzman admitted after his fourth-round victory at the US Open that he thought his next opponent was Matteo Berrettini. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but the Argentine will instead look to pick up his first win against Rafael Nadal.
Although their FedEx ATP Head2Head series may appear to be grim viewing for Schwartzman, there is a silver lining. Both sets the 27-year-old has won off Nadal came in Grand Slams (2018 Australian Open and 2018 Roland Garros).
"Tomorrow is going to be a big day," Schwartzman said. "I have many good games, very good matches against him. I had my chances against him in many matches, but I wasn't able to win the opportunities against him. You never know when are going to come the next opportunities. Maybe it's the next match against him. I need to be ready."
Schwartzman has been in top form this fortnight, as he so often is in New York. After storming through his first three rounds, the Argentine scored his third Top 10 win of the year by toppling sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev. His 14-5 record here is by far his best at a Grand Slam and he'll need to utilise that track record of success to believe he can beat Nadal.
Nadal has continued his ruthless baseline play that saw him prevail last month at the Coupe Rogers (d. Medvedev). After powering into the second week without dropping a set, he faced his first test of the tournament in the fourth round against former US Open champion Marin Cilic. After losing the second set, Nadal found an even higher gear and only dropped three games the rest of the match. He even produced the shot of the tournament - an around-the-post forehand winner - that brought the crowd to their feet.
The Spaniard has been especially energised by the night session crowds in Arthur Ashe Stadium. He's channeled their enthusiasm into his tennis, resulting in primal screams of emotion and leaps of delight after hitting winners worthy of the highlight reel.
“Difficult to describe the feelings, honestly. So special to see this amazing crowd supporting,” Nadal said after defeating Cilic. “I always had a great connection with the crowd here in New York. They are very energetic, very passionate. I consider myself like this, especially on court.
“Matches like this, you come back to the hotel with plenty of energy because I really enjoyed a lot playing in front of the full crowd. Arthur Ashe Stadium here in New York, night session. It's difficult to be better.”
Although Nadal is playing well enough to clinch a fourth US Open crown, he's staying typically grounded and only looking ahead to his next match. Despite his flawless record over Schwartzman, he is adamant the Argentine cannot be underestimated.
“He is one of the most talented players on our Tour. He has everything, amazing control, amazing speed. He has the ability to read your shots and to understand the game very well. It’s not a surprise he is there,” Nadal said. “Diego is playing unbelievable. I need to play my best in the next round to have the chance to be in that semi-finals.”
Watch Highlights Of Nadal vs. Cilic
Given Gael Monfils' ability to beat anyone when he's on, it's surprising to many fans that he only has two Grand Slam semi-finals to his name. But one of them occurred at the US Open (2016) and he's in position for another when he plays Italian Matteo Berrettini.
The Frenchman scored an epic five-set, third-round win over #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, considered by some to be the best match of the tournament so far, then dominated Spaniard Pablo Andujar in 86 minutes to reach the last eight. Monfils gained even more fans this fortnight with his flashy all-court tennis and raucous winning celebrations, energy which perfectly suits a New York environment.
“I think people love me because I play with my heart. I fight. It’s always something special with me,” Monfils said after defeating Shapovalov. “You never know how and what I can do on the court. I think that's why the people like that, a little bit [of] mystery part of me."
Monfils has enjoyed a a career resurgence this season. He's back in the Top 15 of the ATP Rankings for the first time in two years after taking the title in Rotterdam (d. Wawrinka) and reaching the semi-finals in Montreal. Should he prevail against Berrettini, he is projected to re-enter the Top 10 when the newest standing are released on Monday.
Berrettini has already made history this fortnight by becoming the first Italian man in 42 years to reach the US Open quarter-finals. His breakthrough season has included ATP Tour titles in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and Stuttgart (d. Auger-Aliassime), in addition to Top 10 wins over Karen Khachanov and Alexander Zverev. He clinched a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 20 in June, but is guaranteed to surpass that when the newest standings are released on Monday.
"It's something really crazy. I cannot believe it right now," Berrettini said after his fourth-round win over Russian Andrey Rublev. "Seeing my family and my team smiling and crying for me now is something really special."
Watch Highlights Of Berrettini vs Rublev
Handling understandable nerves will be crucial for Berrettini to continue his dream run. He failed to serve out the match on the first try against Rublev and in his third-round win over #NextGenATP Alexei Popyrin, but getting over the line on both occasions instilled confidence that he can refocus when necessary.
“I'm calm on the court, but inside for sure I'm not. I have feelings when I'm playing,” Berrettini said. “You have to fake a little bit to yourself also… You have to be ready because the chance is going to come.”
ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, 4 September 2019