January 25, 2022
Matteo Berrettini is gunning for revenge against the great Rafael Nadal when they clash in the Australian Open semi-final on Friday.
Back in 2019 it was Nadal who came out on top as he won their US Open semi 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-1.
But Berrettini reached last year’s Wimbledon final and he will be back with a bang at Wimbledon 2022.
He is a much more mature and complete player these days and the occasion won’t get to him.
Berrettini said: ‘The only time I played Rafa was a really tough match for me. My first semi-final and I didn’t really know what to expect. Even then I still had a tie-break in the first set.
‘I think it’s going to be a really great fight.
‘He needs to rest too. He is older than me but more experienced.’
Both came through thrilling five-setters in Melbourne. Nadal edged Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3. Rafa showed the superior mental strength when it mattered.
Then Berrettini also saw a two-set lead slip away before beating the hugely entertaining Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2. That made Matteo the first Italian man to make the Australian semis.
He said: ‘It feels unbelievable. Hopefully tomorrow there’s gonna be a second one, although both Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas are my friends.
‘As for my match against Gael, I thought I had him in the third and found myself in the fifth! But I really fought hard and that’s why I’m happy. I smashed every ball harder and played aggressive and pushed really hard.’
Some of the pro-French crowd didn’t take too kindly to Berrettini’s superiority when it came to the crunch. They gave the Italian a tough time.
He observed: ‘It’s full of people and some of them are not really tennis fans I think. It is what it is. I won so I’m happy.’
Nadal is happy too. He didn’t know he was going to face Berrettini when he did his post-match interview. But he concluded: ‘A month-and-a-half ago I didn’t even know if I would be able to go back on tour. Now I am in the semi-final. Of course I’m happy.’
Two days’ rest could give Rafa the edge in what promises to be a scintillating semi-final. But Matteo Berrettini is the real deal these days and he will seize on any weakness in the veteran Spaniard.
Meanwhile Ash Barty won relatively easily against Jessica Pegula of America. The loser admitted that Barty does things that bit better than everyone else.
And the Australian remains the firm favourite for the trophy.
She faces another American, Madison Keys in the Aussie Open semi-final. Keys defeated Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-2 but will need to play better to beat Barty.
The Wimbledon champion will of course be back in London to defend her title at Wimbledon 2022 at the end of June.
Will you be there to watch all the action?