Tennis

Pasta fuels Italian Matteo Berrettini’s run to US Open semi-finals

Regular dinners at New York's Italian eatery help Roman reach US Open s-finals

There has been no shortage of talk at the US Open about where the challenge to the Big Three domination of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer might come from - and none of it included a burly 23-year-old pasta-loving Roman.

But the big-hitting Matteo Berrettini put himself into that conversation yesterday morning (Singapore time) with a gritty, workmanlike effort that no doubt earned the approval of his fellow Italians, battling past 13th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) to reach a first Grand Slam semi-final.

If Federer is tennis' version of a sleek Ferrari, then Berrettini is the big-engine muscle car.

The 1.98m Berrettini cuts an imposing figure, a Rocky-like underdog who is now one win away from a shot at the title.

"I was dreaming about this when I was a child," grinned Berrettini. "So now I'm doing that. I have to enjoy what I'm doing but I have to look forward to what to do, what I want to do.

"I'm in (the) semis. I'm trying to keep going and I'm dreaming, as well. Why not?"

Four years ago, Berrettini was playing a Futures event in Italy. Yesterday, he became the first Italian man since Corrado Barazzutti 42 years ago to reach the US Open semi-finals.

UNCHARTERED TERRITORY

Berrettini, who had never made it beyond the fourth round of any Grand Slam before, has ventured into uncharted territory. But even his long-time coach Vincenzo Santopadre does not know how far he could go.

"I really don't know what are his limits because he's still going up, up, up," said Santopadre.

Despite winning a pair of titles this year and sitting a respectable 25th in the world rankings, Berrettini was not on anyone's US Open radar.

A lack of consistency has plagued his progress, but the potential is clear.

Offsetting a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon and US Open semi-final are several first-round flops that included the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati.

While Berrettini possesses all the physical tools, there is still work to be done on his mental game and he's talking to his mental coach every day at the year's final Grand Slam.

Also part of Berrettini's team in New York is Giovanni Bartocci - the owner of a trattoria in the East Village where he goes for the pasta dinners that have fuelled his run to the last four.

"He's from Rome, my city," smiled Berrettini. "He's always cheering for Italians. I mean, I'm the only one left, so now he's cheering for me." - REUTERS

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