Rafa Nadal moved to the brink of a 19th career Grand Slam title on Friday by beating Matteo Berrettini 7-6(6) 6-4 6-1 to reach the U.S. Open final.
Nadal put pressure on the underdog Italian’s serve from the start but Berrettini saved six break points to set up a first set tie breaker.
Berrettini raced out to a 4-0 lead thanks to some uncharacteristically sloppy play from the Spaniard and the 23-year-old had two set points at 4-6.
But Berrettini suddenly got tight and Nadal took advantage, wearing him down in the extended baseline rallies and capturing the set when the Italian sent a forehand long for his 20th unforced error, leading Nadal to let out a roar.
Nadal broke Berrettini on his 10th opportunity to take a 4-3 lead in the second set and cruised to the finish, absorbing Berrettini’s powerful forehands and redirecting them to his weaker backhand side to see off the first time slam semi-finalist.
Next up for Nadal is a showdown with big-serving Russian Medvedev, who was a straight sets winner over Grigor Dimitrov earlier in the day. The pair’s only previous meeting took place in the final of last month’s Rogers Cup in Montreal, where Nadal was a 6-3 6-0 winner.
If Nadal wins the final he will be just one shy of Roger Federer’s record of 20 men’s Grand Slam titles.