Rafael Nadal will play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the US Open semifinals after the 18-time Grand Slam champion defeated Argentine 20th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.
Second seed Nadal – a winner at Flushing Meadows in 2010, 2013 and 2017 – beat a spirited Schwartzman for the eighth time in as many meetings in a nearly three-hour match that finished early on Thursday morning.
Schwartzman put up firm resistance against Nadal and twice fought back from double-break deficits in the first two sets, but the Spaniard found another gear at crucial moments to secure an eighth semifinal berth in New York.
“Straight sets but big challenges especially after the first two sets, having 4-0 and 5-1 and losing both breaks in a row, but I know how good he is when he’s confident,” Nadal said.
“I’m so happy how I accepted the situation and challenge and kept going, point after point. Here I am in the semifinals. I’m super happy, it means everything.”
Nadal is the only former major champion left in the men’s field following the elimination of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, leaving him as the clear frontrunner in his pursuit of a 19th major title.
Schwartzman, who stands a mere 5ft 7in (1.70m), was bidding to become the shortest Grand Slam semifinalist since 5-foot-6 Harold Solomon at Roland Garros in 1980.
“He’s like a lion in the middle of the jungle. He’s a fighter,” Schwartzman said of Nadal.
“He knows how to play the important moments every single time. I played eight times, and every important moment he played better than me.”
Berrettini, the 24th seed, became the first Italian man to reach the US Open semifinals in 42 years.
He matched Corrado Barazzutti’s run to the last four in 1977 after outlasting 13th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) in three hours and 57 minutes.
The 23-year-old Berrettini joined Barazzutti, 1976 Roland Garros champion Adriano Panatta and Marco Cecchinato as just the fourth Italian to advance to a men’s Grand Slam semifinal in singles.
“What a great fight. I think it was one of the best matches I maybe ever saw – I was playing but I also saw. I’m really happy I don’t know what to say,” Berrettini said.
Defeat for Monfils prolonged France’s lengthy wait for a first men’s Grand Slam title since Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983.