Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes on Spanish legend Rafael Nadal in a rematch of their 2019 US Open last four clash in the Australian Open semi-finals on Friday.

With time ticking down for their second Grand Slam semi-final encounter, the question on the minds of tennis fans is whether the Italian world number 7 will be able to prevent Nadal from closing in on his 21st Grand Slam title. Slam. Nadal is tied with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at 20 Grand Slam titles, the most in men’s tennis history. With Federer still recovering from surgery and Djokovic expelled from Australia for not being vaccinated, Nadal has a strong chance of becoming the most successful player in Grand Slam history.

But Berrettini will be hoping for a second chance and stop the Spanish star juggernaut on Friday.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. I’ve seen him so many times in this tournament, in other tournaments, cheering him on,” said Berrettini, who outlasted Frenchman Gael Monfils in a thrilling quarter-final. three hours and 49 minutes. , 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2. “I really want to win this game. I know I can do it. It’s going to be very difficult, but I’m in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the third time, so that means it’s my level. ” the 25-year-old Italian was cited by the ATP Tour in a report published on its official website.

According to the report, Reflecting on his last four match against Nadal at Flushing Meadows, Berrettini said it was then – even in defeat – that he really started to believe he was capable of winning big titles.

“Before my semi-final at the US Open, I didn’t really think I could have done this much. Not because I didn’t believe it, but just because I came from a mentality where I was doing every not day after day,” he said. noted. “I was never the guy who said, ‘I’m going to turn pro, then I’m going to win a Grand Slam.’ Then when I got to the semis, I said, ‘I want to do it again. I want to try to go further.'”

Like Berrettini, Nadal needed five grueling sets to pass his quarter-final, edging Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours and seven minutes. , a match he said left him almost “destroyed”.

Chasing a record 21st major singles title, the 35-year-old Mallorcan is set to enjoy a two-day buffer between quarters and semis.

“I think it’s important to have those two days off after a brutal game there,” said Nadal, whose 2021 campaign was cut in half by a foot injury. The conditions were tough.”

After kicking off his return to the Tour with a title run at the Melbourne Summer Set in Week 1, and now an impeccable 8-0 on the year, Nadal will need all his reserves if he is to prevail against the hard-hitting Berrettini. in his seventh Australian Open semi-final.

“Matteo is one of the best players in the world,” said Nadal, the 2009 champion. to be competitive, to try to be in the final. But to be able to be in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam after everything I’ve been through, that’s a lot of positive energy for me.”

The report on the ATP website says Nadal insists it’s his love of the sport, not his pursuit of the record alongside Federer and Djokovic, that continues to motivate him some two decades after he turned professional.

“It’s a real honor to be part of it, no doubt. I don’t expect anything. I just keep going. I just love playing tennis. Of course, I want to keep winning. But more than wanting to reach or having more than others is because I love what I do. I want to keep doing this for as long as possible. Over the past six months, there have been a lot of doubts about my ability to continue. But now I feel good. I’m in the semi-finals of the Australian Open – it’s unbelievable for me.”

He said his future happiness does not depend on whether he achieves more Grand Slams than others, or that “others achieve more Grand Slams than me”.

“I’m super satisfied and I feel very lucky as a person in general for all the things that have happened to me in this life. I have a way of approaching life: you can’t always be frustrated if the neighbor has a bigger house than you, or a better phone, or better things. I’m not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger end their careers with more Grand Slams than me. Let’s take advantage of the situation we have. Each of us has done a lot of special things in our sport”, said Nadal.

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