LONDON: Matteo Berrettini’s quest to become the first player since Boris Becker in 1985 to win Queen’s on debut and then Wimbledon moved a step closer as he beat Felix Augier-Aliassime 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Italian will play Hubert Hurkacz on Friday for a place in the Wimbledon final after the Pole stunned eight-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets.
Berrettini is only the second Italian to reach the last four at Wimbledon after Nicola Pietrangeli in 1960.
For Berrettini it is his second Grand Slam semifinal having reached the last four of the 2019 US Open.
He says though that whereas that run came as a pleasant surprise he has different expectations this time round.
“In this tournament, I knew that I could do it,” he said.
“You know, like before this tournament I just felt that I’m a better player now. I have more experience.
“Everything that I am achieving, it’s great, but it’s not something that I didn’t expect.”
The match was played in a great spirit befitting of two players who are close friends.
Both their girlfriends were watching — Berrettini’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who lost in the women’s quarter-finals, and her cousin Nina Ghaibi, who is dating Auger-Aliassime.
“He’s probably one of my best friends on tour, so it’s never easy to play against him,” said Berrettini.
“We know each other pretty well. Today was really tricky. Good luck to him but I’m really happy for me.
“Felix today played some parts of the match better than me. I asked myself to be tough. I just cared about the win.”
In a match that blew hot and cold in terms of the quality — both players committing a swathe of unforced errors — Auger-Aliassime produced the more memorable ground strokes.
However, Berrettini is not all brute force as he demonstrated with some deft touches and subtle drop shots.
He will though be worried that his previously almost unbreakable serve — he had dropped it just twice prior to Wednesday — was broken three times by Auger-Aliassime.
At times Tomljanovic — who was sitting apart from her cousin — could not bear to watch as she buried her head in her hands.
However, she was all smiles at the end and there was even a moment of mild amusement on all sides when Berrettini raised his arms in celebration and walked to the net only for the umpire to call ‘let’ on his serve.
Berrettini then sealed his last-four place and changed his victory routine by going down on one knee.
Auger-Aliassime can be content with having reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final but may rue a chance missed and of joining compatriot Denis Shapovalov in the last four.
Berrettini acknowledged that with Hurkacz’s form he will need to be at his very best on Friday.
“He beat Federer which means he’s playing well but I’m feeling confident. Good luck to him and we will see.”