Rafael Nadal moved to the brink of a 19th career Grand Slam title on Friday by beating Matteo Berrettini 7-6(6) 6-4 6-1 to reach the U.S. Open final.
Nadal put pressure on the underdog Italian’s serve from the start but Berrettini saved six break points to set up a first-set tiebreaker.
Berrettini raced out to a 4-0 lead thanks to some uncharacteristically sloppy play from the Spaniard and the 23-year-old had two set points at 4-6.
But Berrettini suddenly got tight and Nadal took advantage, wearing him down in the extended baseline rallies and capturing the set when the Italian sent a forehand long for his 20th unforced error, leading Nadal to let out a roar.
Nadal broke Berrettini on his 10th opportunity to take a 4-3 lead in the second set and cruised to the finish, absorbing Berrettini’s powerful forehands and redirecting them to his weaker backhand side to see off the first time slam semi-finalist.
“The first set was a little bit frustrating because I had a lot of breakpoints and you don’t want to be in a tiebreak against a player like Matteo,” Nadal said.
“I survived that moment and finally I had the break … I think I started to play with more calm and was more aggressive.
“I just tried to stay focused on the next point,” he added.
Nadal tipped his hat to the 24th seeded Berrettini who came through several epic battles to reach the semis in New York.
“He’s young and he has everything.
“He’s already one of the best players in the world,” he said.
Nadal will face big-serving Russian, Daniil Medvedev, who was a straight-sets winner over Grigor Dimitrov in the first semi-final.
Medvedev defeated Dimitrov 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3.