Gilbert breaks down Australian Open Berrettini-Nadal showdown | ATP tour


Australian Open semi-final foes Matteo Berrettini and Rafael Nadal have faced each other before. Coincidentally, that match, a straight-sets win for Nadal at the 2019 US Open, also happened in a major semi-final. But according to former world number 4 Brad Gilbert, a lot has changed since then.

“I think at that time it was kind of a big surprise for Berrettini to be there. Now he’s a different guy,” Gilbert told ATPTour.com. “It’s his fourth straight quarter-final Slam, he’s been in the final and he’s a much more confident player.”

During his breakthrough at Flushing Meadows in 2019, Berrettini was the 25th player in the ATP rankings. He had only cracked the Top 100 18 months earlier.

Now the 25-year-old is a Top 10 powerhouse who has made the Nitto ATP Finals twice and reached his first major final at Wimbledon last year. On the other hand, Nadal is only playing his second tournament since August last year due to a foot injury.

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Gilbert, who coached Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, believes Nadal hasn’t played against a waiter like Berrettini in five rounds. In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard faced Denis Shapovalov in five sets.

“I think he played very solidly to get to the quarters and he was literally seven minutes away from beating Denis 3, 4 and 3. He missed an easy pass at 3-all 15/40, a forehand on the line it is 99 out of 100 [times]”, said Gilbert. “If he breaks there, this match is not complicated and he enters the semi-finals completely unscathed. How does he recover physically?

Nadal admitted to having stomach problems during his victory against the Canadian, which was played in the grueling heat of Melbourne. But it’s important to note that Berrettini and Nadal played their quarter-finals on Tuesday, giving them both two days off.

“When [Rafa] had to, he did what he had to do. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen Rafa do,” Gilbert said. “You never get to see Rafa manage himself and it was a beautiful thing to watch, him managing himself through a little heat issue.

“He’s in better shape than a fiddle, but it can happen. Normally, when this happens, if you are not prepared for it, you can have problems. But he had to manage himself.

Although Gilbert said Shapovalov’s highs might even be higher than Berrettini’s, he added that the Italian didn’t dive as often and played more of a ‘big man’s game’ with his massive serve and huge shot. right.

“His game is all about surf and grass. That’s what wins it for him. If he wants to win, he bombs serves, bombs first-ball forehands, takes control,” Gilbert said. “If Rafa becomes offensive and can make it work, that’s a problem. That’s what he did at the US Open, he broke the backhand. But if this guy serves like he can serve, he serves big. But you don’t know how much energy he spent.

Berrettini also needed five sets in the quarterfinals, in which he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils. He was also extended to a fourth set in his first two matches and a fifth set tie-break in the third round against reigning Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Is the easy answer that Nadal will immediately try to attack the Italian’s backhand and grind him down from there? Gilbert said it wasn’t necessarily that easy.

“When a guy has a monster forehand, you want to be able to get him hard and fast on the forehand because he’s always looking to be on the backhand side of the court on the forehand,” Gilbert said. “The ultimate goal is to be able to bring it hard and fast on the forehand to open up more space on the backhand.”

Who will reach the final to face Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas? Gilbert is hoping for five sets and he thinks Nadal is a ‘one-point favourite’.

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