London: Matteo Berrettini’s quest to become the first player after Boris Becker in 1985 to win Queen’s on his debut and then Wimbledon came one step closer by beating Felix Augier-Aliassime 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday in the semifinals.
The 25-year-old Italian will play against Hubert Hurkacz on Friday for a place in the Wimbledon final after the Pole stunned eight-time champion Roger Federer in two sets.
Berrettini is only the second Italian to reach the semifinal at Wimbledon after Nicola Pietrangeli in 1960.
The game was played with a great spirit that befits two very friendly players.
Both of their girls were watching: Berrettini’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who lost in the women’s quarter-finals, and his cousin Nina Ghaibi, who is dating Auger-Aliassime.
“He’s probably one of my best friends on the Tour, so it’s never easy to play against him,” said Berrettini.
“We know each other pretty well. It was really difficult today. Good luck to him but I’m really happy for me.
“Felix played some parts of the game better than me today. I asked myself to be tough. I only cared about the victory. “
In a match that blew hot and cold in terms of quality – both players made a series of unforced errors – Auger-Aliassime produced the most memorable ground hits.
However, Berrettini isn’t all brute force as he demonstrated with some skillful touches and subtle tail swings.
He’ll be worried though that his previously nearly unbreakable serve – he’d only dropped it twice before Wednesday – has been broken three times by Auger-Aliassime.
Sometimes Tomljanovic – who was sitting apart from his cousin – could not bear to watch as he hid his head in his hands.
However, in the end it was all smiles and there was also a moment of mild amusement on all sides when Berrettini raised his arms in celebration and approached the net only for the referee to call ‘let’ on his serve.
Even Auger-Aliassime, while looking to defeat, smiled: Berrettini then sealed his fourth place and changed his victory routine by getting on his knees.
Auger-Aliassime may be pleased to have reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final, but he may regret a missed opportunity and join compatriot Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals.
Berrettini acknowledged that with Hurkacz’s form he will have to give his best on Friday.
“He beat Federer, which means he’s playing well, but I’m confident. Good luck to him and we’ll see. “