MELBOURNE (Reuters) – World number seven Matteo Berrettini overcame a gripping fightback from teenage Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz to edge a heavyweight slugfest 6-2 7-6(3) 4-6 2-6 7-6 (10-5) on Friday and book his spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The Italian won a final set super tie-break after an enchanting four hours and 10 minutes, the see-saw contest resembling more of a boxing match than tennis, on a balmy afternoon at the Rod Laver Arena.
The 18-year-old Alcaraz, who won the NextGen ATP Finals in 2021, came into the match having defeated the Wimbledon runner-up in a final set tiebreaker in their only previous meeting at Vienna last October.
Berrettini had his revenge in similar fashion but on a bigger stage.
“He’s unbelievable,” the Italian said on court about his opponent. “I think at his age I didn’t even have ATP points.
“He’s impressive and he’s proved it playing matches like this. He showed everybody his potential, but luckily today I won. Congratulations to him.”
Alcaraz started strongly, setting up five breakpoint chances in Berrettini’s first two service games. But he was unable to make them count while the Italian utilised his limited opportunities to go two sets up.
Berrettini, who is nicknamed “The Hammer” on the tour for his thumping forehands, found a way to blunt Alcaraz’s power and athleticism during the early stages.
But the Spaniard, whose best Grand Slam performance came at last year’s U.S. Open when he reached the quarter-finals, would not give up.
Once he managed to rein in his unforced errors there was instant dividend as he went on to break Berrettini three times to roar back into the contest and level the match at 2-2.
Berrettini lost his balance, and rolled his right ankle during a heavy fall in the second game of the deciding set.
The 25-year-old was, however, able to continue playing without much discomfort though he was unable to find a way past his opponent’s power and supreme athleticism.
But Berrettini’s experience showed as he raised his game in the tiebreak with Alcaraz undone by forehand errors. The Italian sealed the contest on his second matchpoint when Alcaraz committed a double fault.
“In the fifth I just started to think about fighting for every point,” the Italian added. “In every match something happens (referring to ankle injury) but I fought through it.”
The Italian will next meet either American Sebastian Korda or Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain for a place in the quarter-finals.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Mark Heinrich)