Sometimes a friend is the toughest foe, but Matteo Berrettini did not mind on Wednesday. The Italian star beat close mate Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 to reach his first Wimbledon semi-final.
The seventh seed is the first man from his country in the Open Era to make the last four at The Championships. The only other Italian man in history to accomplish the feat was Nicola Pietrangeli in 1960.
“Everything is crazy right now. Thanks to Felix, I think we made a great match and I hope you guys enjoyed it,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “He’s probably one of my best friends on tour, so it’s never easy to play against him. But that’s sport and I’m really happy.”
The semi-final line-up is complete.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2021
There will be a first-time Grand Slam finalist on the bottom half of the draw, as Berrettini will play Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz, who upset eight-time champion Roger Federer, for a spot in the championship match. The Polish No. 1 won their only tour-level meeting in Miami two years ago.
“Hubert is having a great season. He won Miami, he is playing good. Beating Federer in three sets means that he’s playing well,” Berrettini said. “But I feel ready, I’m feeling confident. Good luck to him, and let’s see.”
Berrettini broke onto the scene by making the semi-finals at the 2019 US Open. But this time, he is already an established Top 10 star, and the World No. 9 arrived at the All England Club with plenty of momentum. After reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals, Berrettini won the biggest title of his career — and his second tour-level trophy on grass — at the cinch Championships.
It was a tight back-and-forth clash against Auger-Aliassime, but Berrettini showed just a bit more consistency and firepower to claw past the Canadian after three hours and three minutes. Berrettini is the sixth Italian man to make multiple Grand Slam semi-finals. He now owns a 23-5 tour-level record on grass.
“I think we know each other pretty well. We played just once in a tournament on grass two years ago, but for sure he improved, I improved,” Berrettini said. “Today was really tricky. It’s always special to play on such a nice court, so it was really difficult. Good luck to him, but now I’m happy for myself.”
This was the pair’s second ATP Head2Head clash, with both coming on this surface. Two years ago, Berrettini beat Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6(11) in the Stuttgart final, and he picked up where he left off in their budding rivalry on Wednesday. Early on, it appeared that the match would be in Berrettini’s control as he stormed to a 5-1 lead, breaking in just his second return game of the match when the Canadian missed a backhand long.
But the 25-year-old needed seven set points to clinch the opening set, and that was a sign of the fight to come. Auger-Aliassime, competing in his first major quarter-final, remained calm and continued going after his shots to keep it close. After exchanging breaks earlier in the second set, the 16th seed got the decisive break at 5-5 when the Italian missed a backhand slice approach into the net, and he then emphatically held to love to level the match.
The Last Time… With Matteo Berrettini
Both men wanted to take the first big cut in rallies, and that at times led to plenty of unforced errors. But in key moments, Berrettini got more out of his first serve and was able to find himself in more favourable positions during points.
The seventh seed broke to win the third set, and then earned his sixth service break early in the fourth. From there, he was able to ride his serve to victory.
“I’m really trying to win every match that I play. Every match is different, so it depends on the opponent,” Berrettini said. “I think Felix today was playing for some parts of the match better than me. But I was just there, I asked myself to be tough and I didn’t care about the level. I just cared about the win.”
If Auger-Aliassime had advanced to the semi-finals, he would have joined countryman Denis Shapovalov in the last four. If that happened, it would have been the first time that two Canadian men made the semi-finals at a Grand Slam. Shapovalov will play World No. 1 Novak Djokovic next.
Did You Know?
Berrettini is now 10-0 this grass-court season, and he is 11-1 in Grand Slams this year. The Italian’s only loss at a major in 2021 came against Djokovic at Roland Garros. At the Australian Open, he gave a walkover to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round due to injury.