APTOPIX US Open Tennis

Matteo Berrettini of Italy falls to the court after winning the fifth set tie break for victory against Gael Monfils of France during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships Wednesday. [SARAH STIER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

NEW YORK — Matteo Berrettini describes his mental coach as a big help and a best friend. They've been speaking on the phone before and after every match during Berrettini's run to his first Grand Slam semifinal.

They had plenty to chat about when it came to this latest victory.

Berrettini, a 23-year-old from Rome, gave Italy a spot in the final four at the U.S. Open for the first time since 1977 in dramatic fashion, double-faulting away his initial match point and then needing four more to finally put away 13th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5) after nearly four hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.

"He told me, 'I need to thank you, because I thought that everyone is born once and dies once. But during that match, I was born and died 15 or 16 times,'" Berrettini said about his conversation with the mental coach he's worked with for several years. "I collapsed and got back up. I collapsed and got back up. That match point. Those other chances. I was down then I came back. It's a great source of pride for me."

In truth, the denouement was hardly a thing of beauty, with both men, clearly spent, fighting themselves and the tension of the moment as much as the guy on the other side of the net.

Monfils finished with 17 double-faults but managed to avoid any throughout the entire, exhausting fifth set until he served at 6-5 — and then he had three in that game, plus another two in the deciding tiebreaker, often doubling over between points to rest and catch his breath.

"A very bad day for me, serving," Monfils said.

Berrettini acknowledged the obvious afterward, too, saying he felt "a little bit tight."

You think?

It all was a bit of a whir.

"Right now, I don't remember any points, just the (last) match point, you know?" he said. "I remember also the double-fault; I have to be honest."

Berrettini, who is seeded 24th, will get a day to recuperate: He will face No. 2 Rafael Nadal or No. 20 Diego Schwartzman in the semifinals Friday. The other men's semifinal that day is No. 5 Daniil Medvedev against unseeded Grigor Dimitrov, who beat an injured Roger Federer in five sets on Tuesday night to become, at No. 78, the lowest-ranked semifinalist at the U.S. Open since 1991.

Nadal, the last member of the Big Three standing because Federer and Novak Djokovic are out of the draw, was to meet Schwartzman on Wednesday night. That followed the last women's quarterfinal, in which No. 15 Bianca Andreescu reached her first major semifinal by defeating No. 25 Elise Mertens 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Andreescu, a 19-year-old Canadian, improved to 31-4 this season, including 13-3 in three-setters. She takes on No. 13 Belinda Bencic, when the other semifinal is Serena Williams against No. 5 Elina Svitolina.

Bencic also reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, following up her upset of defending champion and No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka by taking the last four games of a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over No. 23 Donna Vekic.

gregg.dewalt@TimesDaily.com

or 256-740-5748. Twitter 

@greggdewalt.

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