Asked afterward how he’d managed to outlast a practically inextinguishable Gael Monfils in their U.S. Open quarterfinal match Wednesday evening, Matteo Berrettini had no answer. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know. Actually, right now, I don’t remember any points, just the match point.”
He could be forgiven for that. The match—mostly a weird, sweaty, exhilarating blur—ended with an appropriately weird, sweaty and exhilarating fifth set tiebreak after nearly four hours and five match points.
At several moments in the match, each player looked on the verge of exhaustion-induced collapse, a consequence of the sweltering heat. Berrettini sweat so profusely through his shorts and shoes it seemed as if he had poured water on himself. (Monfils, at one point, did pour a bottle of water on himself.) In later sets, Monfils began each point hunched over at the waist, as if about to hurl, before snapping back into position and pulling off all sorts of wacky feats, including this frankly preposterous return:
Just as Berrettini had all but locked up the match—5-3, 40-30 in the fifth set—he double faulted, and Monfils lasted long enough to force a tiebreak. It felt, after Berrettini failed to capitalize on his next three match points, as if he were simply handing the match over to Monfils. But Monfils graciously declined this offer, and served five double faults in the match’s last 10 minutes.
At long last, with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5) win, Berrettini could collapse. The No. 25-ranked Italian flopped triumphantly onto the hardcourt, flung off his cap, thumped his chest and howled with victory.
A sweet moment to treasure before his first semifinal, where he’ll face the winner of tonight’s match between (gulp!) No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal and Argentina’s No. 20 Diego Schwartzman for a place in Sunday’s final.