Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favourite to pick up his fourth US Open title but will have a pair of new challengers to his likely crown before he can lift the trophy on Sunday. Daniil Medvedev or Grigor Dimitrov will be waiting in the final, assuming he can see off the dangerous Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals.
Berrettini is unlike many of his Italian counterparts, boasting a far more aggressive play style suited to faster surfaces. He serves and hits big, with his performances in 2019 showing a major improvement. He made the fourth round at Wimbledon and has followed it up within an even better achievement at his next slam. He has avoided the highest seeds to get that far but pulled off two impressive wins in different circumstances in the fourth round and quarters. He outplayed Andrey Rublev before toughing one out against Gael Monfils last round. The latter came in a final set tiebreak after he had previously blown three other match points, including 1 when serving for the match.
Nadal won his match in straight sets, defeating the Argentinian Diego Schwartzman 6-4 7-5 6-2. However, it was far from routine for the tournament favourite who may well be concerned he almost blew sets from 4-0 and 5-1 up in the first and second respectively. Schwartzman erased double break deficits on both occasions but couldn’t quite complete the job in either set. It was a major surprise for Nadal, who has looked unbreakable at times with his new and improved serve. The Spaniard does buy into the wisdom that tough matches are good for him to bring his best tennis though. “I really believe that if you want to win tournaments, you need to go through tough opponents like I had against Marin, today against Diego. He was playing great the whole event and now [Matteo is] another player that is playing great,” Nadal said. “I need to play my best, and I think today I made a step forward.”
Berrettini would appear to fit the type of player that has earned surprise wins over Nadal at slams in the past but the difference between early round Nadal and a battle tested one at the deep end needs no explanation. The Italian’s killer forehand will need to be firing all evening to have much of a chance but Berrettini will have nothing to play for. Should he win, it will be a rare slam final with neither participant being part of the big four.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets