Melbourne, Jan 25 (IANS): Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini overcame a spirited fightback from France's Gael Monfils to win a five-set quarter-final and become the first Italian man to reach the semi-finals at the Australian Open, here on Tuesday.
In a heavy-hitting performance at Rod Laver Arena, Berrettini beat France's Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 in an epic three hours and 48-minute clash to book a place in the semi-final wherein he will face Rafael Nadal on Friday.
"It feels unbelievable. I am really happy for myself. What a great fight against Gael. It was a great match with a lot of emotions. I thought I had him in the third set and then I found myself in the fifth. But I really fought hard and put everything on the court and that is why I am really happy," said Berrettini in his on-court interview.
The seventh seed, who is making his fifth appearance in Melbourne, mixed quality with grit, playing aggressively for large periods as he ran around his backhand to try and dictate with his powerful forehand against the athletic Monfils.
Berrettini fired 50 winners and rallied in the decider after Monfils bombarded him with offensive tennis in the third and fourth sets to advance. With his victory, the 25-year-old has improved his ATP head-to-head record against Monfils to 3-0.
The Italian has now reached the semi-finals at three of the four Grand Slams, with his best result at a major was a run to the championship match at Wimbledon last year.
In a strong first set, Berrettini stepped inside the baseline to pull Monfils from corner to corner with his heavy groundstrokes. Despite his impressive movement, the Frenchman was unable to stay with the World No 7, who committed just five unforced errors to move ahead.
Fuelled with confidence, Berrettini won another mini-battle on serve at 1-2 in the second set, saving three break points as he came through a 20-minute service game to hold, letting out a roar in delight when Monfils hit a forehand long. With his foot down, the Italian then gained the decisive break on the 17th seed's serve at 3-3 to take further control.
The Italian managed to deal with the variety of pace Monfils offered in the first two sets, but the Frenchman started to take the game to Berrettini in the third set, swinging freely to win the set as he changed the momentum of the match.
Monfils went on to dominate as the aggressor in the baseline exchanges in the fourth set, hitting with a greater spin to force the Italian back. But Berrettini demonstrated his resilience, raising his level to win the first four games of the deciding set.
He then held his nerve on serve to earn his second fifth-set victory against Monfils, having triumphed in five against the Frenchman in the last eight at the US Open in 2019.