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Berrettini vs Alcaraz lives up to the hype, Italian joins Nadal, Zverev, and Shapovalov in fourth round

Matteo Berrettini flexes after fighting off Carlos Acaraz of Spain at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, 21 January 2022. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

By Ricky Dimon

It’s safe to say that Matteo Berrettini vs. Carlos Alcaraz lived up to the hype.

The marquee matchup of what was an intriguing Friday lineup from top to bottom did not disappoint. Alcaraz made an impressive charge from two sets down, but Berrettini managed to book his spot in the Australian Open fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6(3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6(5) victory that lasted four hours and 10 minutes.

Perhaps weighted down by expectations (Alcaraz was actually the favorite in this match), the 18-year-old Spaniard got off to a slow start. But he hit back impressively in the third and fourth sets, during which he struck 19 winners to only 12 unforced errors and did not face a single break point.

That set the stage for a dramatic fifth, which began with Berrettini rolling his right ankle in the second game. However, the seventh-ranked Italian recovered without any trouble and both players held serve the entire way. Berrettini had a chance to end it prior to a super-tiebreaker, but he dumped a forehand return in the net on match point with Alcaraz serving at 5-6, 30-40.

Carlos Acaraz fought Matteo Berrettini for four hours, 10 minutes. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

The 25-year-old’s edge in experience may have been a decisive factor in the pressure-packed moments, as he dominated the ‘breaker 10 points to five.

“Unbelievable,” Berrettini said of Alcaraz. “I think at his age I didn’t have an ATP point. “He’s impressive. He can only improve playing matches like this. He showed everybody his potential. Luckily today I won, but really congrats to him.”

“I’m very proud of the performance today,” Alcaraz commented. “It was my first time two sets down and then to be able to come back the way I did…. I gave everything on the court.”

Berrettini is now an incredible 19-0 at a Grand Slams against opponents other than Novak Djokovic dating back to the start of last season. He lost to Djokovic at the French Open (quarterfinals), Wimbledon (final), and U.S. Open (quarterfinals). With Djokovic out of the Australian Open, the door is obviously open.

“Luckily today I won, but really congrats to him,” Matteo Berrettini said. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

Next up for Berrettini on Sunday is Pablo Carreno Busta, a four-set winner over Sebastian Korda.

Berrittini and Carreno Busta are joined in the last 16 by Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Gael Monfils, Adrian Mannarino, and Miomir Kecmanovic. Other Sunday matchups are Nadal vs. Mannarino, Zverev vs. Shapovalov, and Monfils vs. Kecmanovic. Mannarino has advanced with consecutive upsets of Hubert Hurkacz and Aslan Karatsev.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.