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Gael Monfils, of France, returns a shot to Pablo Andujar, of Spain, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Gael Monfils, of France, returns a shot to Pablo Andujar, of Spain, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)|Associated Press
Tennis

U.S. Open Wednesday men's quarters: Abrams picks Gael Monfils vs Matteo Berrettini and Rafael Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman

Matches are at 1:25 pm and 8:15 pm EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2019 U.S. Open

Flushing Meadows, NY, USA

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Men’s Quarterfinals

Gael Monfils over Matteo Berrettini

We may not have expected this quarterfinal matchup, but it’s a great one and the match should be awfully entertaining. Berrettini has been nothing short of a Beast, and it’s hard to bet against him. He’s come through four good players and hasn’t shown much for the wear. It may not mean too much to you, but to beat Richard Gasquet, Jordan Thompson, Alexi Popyrin, and Andrey Rublev in succession tells anyone who is familiar with pro tennis that he’s playing some good ball. The question is, can he top the ultra-athletic, entertaining, hot Gael Monfils when it counts? Surprisingly, these guys haven’t played yet, so the first set may be a set of them feeling each other out. But once they get warmed up, this match between a French shotmaker and an Italian Mack Truck, will produce thrills galore. I like Monfils because he’s higher ranked (#13), so he’s played these occasions before. Berrettini may be new to this level of the Tour, but don’t count him out. There may need to be a knockout here for a winner to move on.

Rafa Nadal over Diego Schwartzman

On Monday, against Marin Cilic, Nadal hit a return-of-serve, and Cilic, who was serving-and-volleying for perhaps the first and only time of the match, came to net and after an exchange, hit an acutely angled backhand cross-court volley really short in the court, with the ball moving away from the ad side into the seats. Nadal sprinted to his left, and with his left-handed forehand shoveled a low, spinning shot below the top of the net, around the net post. The ball went around the netpost, about a foot and a half above the ground and curved into the corner of Cilic’s side, two inches from the baseline and two inches from the sideline. This circus shot was all I needed to see that Nadal is taking this tournament seriously, and after the fall of both Djokovic and Federer, he’s the new heavy favorite to win this crown. That doesn’t mean that he won’t be tested. Argentina’s bulldog, Diego Schwartzman, will see to that. Schwartzman took out the very tough 6th seeded Alexander Zverev in four sets on Labor Day, and is playing killer tennis. He’s tenacious as hell, he hits all his shots well (save for his mediocre serve) and competes like a pitbull. Unfortunately for Schwartzman, he’s coming up against an immovable object. One of the things that amazes me, which is rarely pointed out, is that Nadal, who plays lefty, is really right handed. Watch him give autographs, which he writes with his right hand. Now think about how a guy who is right-handed has learned to hit his serves with his other arm at 125 mph, and you’ll agree with me that the man from Mallorca is a physical freak. Well, welcome to the freak show.

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