Rafael Nadal vs. Matteo Berrettini
The only previous meeting between Nadal and Berrettini also came in a Grand Slam semifinal, at the 2019 US Open. Rafa won that one in relatively comfortable straight-set fashion, though the Italian did push him to a first-set tiebreaker. Much has changed in the three years since, of course. Berrettini was completely new to the scene then; now he’s an established Top 10 player who has been to a Wimbledon final. Nadal, meanwhile, is 35 now, and hasn’t been back to the semifinals of a hard-court major since that US Open—until now.
Rafa is coming in after surviving a five-set quarterfinal in the high heat against Denis Shapovalov; Berrettini is coming in after surviving two five-setters, against Carlos Alcaraz and Gael Monfils. The bigger question in this match concerns Berrettini’s serve. For some stretches, he has been virtually unbreakable. In his fourth-round win over Pablo Carreño Busta, he made 77 percent of first balls and hit 28 aces in three sets. But he came back down to earth against Gael Monfils, making just 61 percent of first serves in their quarterfinal. He’ll likely need to be better than that against Rafa.
Once the ball is in play, who will the advantage from the baseline? Berrettini can take any short ball and punish it, but Rafa can swing his forehand into Berrettini’s somewhat weaker backhand. How well will the Italian’s slice work? Just as important: If Berrettini has a lead, will he believe in his ability to beat one of the Big Three? And if Nadal has a lead, will he be able to keep his mind clear of past squandered chances from his Aussie past? This is a match with a lot of questions, and it should be entertaining, and possibly nerve-wracking, to see them be answered. Winner: Nadal