New York, 5 September 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Three-time champion Rafael Nadal made life difficult for himself in the first two sets on Wednesday night before outlasting Diego Schwartzman, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 for a place in the US Open semi-finals.
The second-seeded Nadal led 4-0 in the first and 5-1 in the second, only to see the Argentine Schwartz level on each occasion. Nadal eventually regrouped though, and after treatment on his arm prevailed in straight sets by taking the last four games.
“I had some mistakes but I am super happy how I accepted the situation and the challenge. Being in the semi-finals is super important for me,” Nadal said.
In his eighth US Open and 33rd grand slam semi, the Spaniard faces Italy’s Matteo Berrettini who double faulted on first match point but served strongly on his fifth attempt to beat Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).
On the women’s side Belinda Bencic kept the Swiss flag flying after the exit of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka to reach her maiden semis at the majors as well, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, against Donna Vekic.
Her next opponent is also a novice at this stage, fancied 15th-seeded Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu who rallied to beat Elise Mertens, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The women’s semis are Thursday, with six-time winner Serena williams v fifth seeded Elina Svitolina the other match. The other men’s semi Friday is between fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev and Grigor Dimitrov.
Nadal is the last man standing from the big three who also include Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but he was given a hard time by 20th seed Schwartzman.
The 18-time grand slam winner seemed in full command in each of the first two sets with a double break lead, only to collapse on both occasions.
He started hitting errors while Schwartzman rose to the occasion with some spectacular shots, most notably in the second set when he first chased down several balls running all across the court and then fired a passing shot past Nadal which the Spaniard could only applaud.
Nadal eventually prevailed well after midnight despite 39 unforced errors and now runs into Berrettini who became the first Italian man in the New York semis since Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.
Berrettini, 23, blew a 2-0 lead in the fifth but broke 13 seed Monfils again to serve for the match at 5-4. But he double faulted, and two unforced errors allowed Monfils to tie again at 5-5.
His next chances came and went at 6-5, both after Monfils double faults. The Frenchman added two more for a match tally of 17 in the tiebreak where Berrettini eventually prevailed on his fifth chance when Monfils could return his hard serve only long.
“Right now I don’t remember any points, just the match point. I remember also my double fault, to be honest,” said Berrettini who collapsed on the floor when it was all over.
“What a great fight. I’m really happy I don’t know what to say. I was lucky I had match points and he didn’t have it. It’s better when you have them. I’m really proud of myself, I was always focusing on the next point.”
Monfils lamented that I served very poorly” as he failed to emulate his girlfriend Svitolina with a semi-final berth.
Andreescu meanwhile has impressed this year by winning the big titles of Indian Wells and Toronto, and she kept calm although Mertens, who had not dropped a set in New York, dominated the opening set.
The 19-year-old reeled off four games in a row to draw level and then also took the last three in the third for victory, wrapping up matters with a backhand down the line for her 39th winner.
“Last year I was in qualifying and had a back injury. I need someone to pinch me. Is this real life?” the elated Andreescu said.
“Elise played really well. I tried to stay as calm as possible. I was getting irritated because I was not playing well [in the first set] but I stuck to my tactics.”
She now runs into 12th-seeded Bencic who fought from a break down at 5-4 in the first set and then won last four games against tournament number 23 Vekic who hit a forehand wide on third match point.
“I just really like the challenge. For me the big courts are a big motivation. I dreamed of this as a kid,” the 22-year-old Bencic said.
She regretted the exits of Federer and Wawrinka, saying: “This is not a good thing. I’m not happy about this. I’m kind of surprised, like I think everyone is. It would be really nice if the boys could also make it to semi-finals.
“But I’m happy I can kind of do it for them and don’t let them down.”