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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, celebrates after defeating Diego Schwartzman, of Argentina, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament early Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Rafael Nadal, of Spain, celebrates after defeating Diego Schwartzman, of Argentina, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament early Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)|Associated Press
Tennis

U.S. Open men's semifinal No. 2: Abrams picks Rafael Nadal vs Matteo Berrettini

This match is scheduled for 6 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2019 U.S. Open

Flushing Meadows, NY, USA

Friday, September 6, 2019

Men’s Semis

Rafa Nadal over Matteo Berrettini

Tonight in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, probably under the closed roof because of potentially inclement weather, Rafa Nadal will vie with Matteo Berrettini for the right to play for the 2019 U.S. Open Men’s championship on Sunday. Nadal, who is the 2nd seed, will be going for his fourth Open title, if he should get by the tough Italian, who became the first from his country since 1973 to advance this far at the Grand Slam event in New York City. But Nadal is clearly the favorite.

For Berrettini to win, he’ll have to rely on his two biggest weapons—his great forehand, and his dependably strong serve. Should Berrettini use those weapons effectively he should be in a position to give Nadal fits, but probably fits that the Spaniard can handle. Berrettini had a rough time with Frenchman Gael Monfils in the quarters, making his getaway after a 7-6 in the fifth victory that was as thrilling as it was close. When they approached the net for the post match handshake, Berrettini put his hand out for Monfils to shake, but Monfils slapped the hand away and gave his conqueror a big giant bear hug, as his show of sportsmanship and congratulations. Prior to that match Berrettini took out the very tough Russian, Andrey Rublev in straight sets, Aussie Alexei Popyrin in four, Jordan Thompson, another Aussie, in four, and Frenchman Richard Gasquet also in four. He has been strong, dependable, consistent, and stubborn, if not absolutely spectacular.

Nadal, however, has been spectacular at times. He’s served as well as he possibly can in this tournament, and along with his much improved serve he’s also relied on his much improved backhand. Needless to say, Nadal’s forehand has been magnificently reliable, and his movement has been swift. Maybe it’s his anticipation and general court presence, however, that makes him so intimidating. When his opponents go out to play the Spaniard, they know that Nadal will track down any ball, will run down drop shots and lobs, will stand as far back on his return-of-serve as he needs to in order to see the ball properly, and will generally do everything he can to inflict punishment on his opponent. That’s what I expect from this match tonight: Nadal playing the best defense possible, and changing defense into offense at his first chance. He’ll play at his own pace, often reaching “0” or “1” on the serve clock when he serves, as he bounces the ball interminably and goes through all of his anal-retentive rituals. Still, the match is Nadal’s to lose, and I think he’ll just be too tough for Berrettini to take. I like Nadal to play for the trophy Sunday late afternoon.

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