US Open semifinal preview: Matteo Berrettini vs Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal reacts to his win over Diego Schwartzman (Tim Clayton/Corbis Sport/Getty Images/Zimbio)

Opportunity is knocking and it's not only for Rafael Nadal. With the other semifinal guaranteeing a first-time Grand Slam finalist, Matteo Berrettini wants to ensure a new Grand Slam champion should he make the final. 

For the Spaniard, this is not a chance but it's THE chance to finally move within one Grand Slam title of Roger Federer. You look back at some of those missed opportunities to add to his current haul of 18, and you have to think that if he doesn't do it here, you question if he will ever catch Federer. 

For the Italian, he is looking to become the first male player from his country to reach a US Open final and looking to be the first Italian player in general to reach a major final since Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci reached it back in 2015.

Nadal's Road To The Semis

When the draw was revealed, many were very ing round sure that Nadal would at least reach the semifinals or further with his draw. He took out John Millman in the opening round and proceeded to take out an inspired Hyeon Chung in the round three after a day off in the second round.

Marin Cilic pushed him in parts of their round of 16 encounter, but nerves and missed opportunities failed to see the Croat go the distance. Against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal looked well in control up a set and two breaks, but the wily Argentine never backed down and really turned it into a three-set slugfest.

Nadal reacts to his win over Diego Schwartzman (Chaz Niall/Getty Images/Zimbio)
Nadal reacts to his win over Diego Schwartzman (Chaz Niell/Getty Images/Zimbio)

Berrettini's Road To The Semis

The road to this point wasn't too straightforward for the 24th seed, starting against a form player in Richard Gasquet. He took the first two sets before dropping the third but still claimed it in four. That would be the story in his next two matches against Australians Jordan Thompson and Alexei Popyrin.

Andrey Rublev was a tough challenge next, but the Russian was coming off some emotional highs the last couple of weeks which included a win over Roger Federer in Cincinnati followed by wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios in New York. 

The Italian went up two sets but fended off the Russian in a third-set breaker saving set points to advance to the last eight where he met Gael Monfils. That quarterfinal match started with heat and humidity bearing down on the two. Coming to a point where Berrettini looked like he could deliver the final blow to an ailing Monfils. 

Despite that, the Frenchman somehow kept it together to force a fifth set and came from break down to force a final set tiebreak. The Italian got out to a hot start, but Monfils crawled his way back. However, the 24 seed came through to reach his first semifinal.

Berrettini reacts to his win over Gael Monfils (Chaz Niell/Getty Images/Zimbio)
Berrettini reacts to his win over Gael Monfils (Chaz Niell/Getty Images/Zimbio)

Analysis

With much less time on court and having been in this situation numerous times, you have to feel Nadal is the heavy favorite in this one. The game plan for Nadal remains the same is to attack the backhand. The backhand is the weaker side for the Italian and running around it will leave an open court for the picking for Nadal. 

The 24 seed will have to shorten the points and really use that forehand and serve to keep it that way. With the roof closed, no external factors will be involved so Berrettini can be allowed to swing freely which is what he needs to do to have a chance.

Prediction: Nadal in four sets

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