Top seed Carlos Alcaraz roared into the Wimbledon quarterfinals with a formidable display of firepower to down big-serving Italian dark horse Matteo Berrettini on Monday.
The Spaniard was beaten to the punch in the opening set but raised his game to claim a comfortable 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win to the delight of the Centre Court crowd.
He will now face a battle of the 20-year-old’s against Denmark’s sixth seed Holger Rune for a place in the semifinals.
Berrettini was unseeded after an injury-plagued year but is a potent threat on grasscourts having reached the final two years ago when he lost to Novak Djokovic.
He came out firing huge serves and forehands and rocked Alcaraz with a decisive service break to take the opener.
Berrettini could not maintain the intensity though and Alcaraz raised his tempo to seize control early in the second set, running his opponent ragged at times.
He broke serve in the third game of the second set on the way to levelling the match and did the same in the third set with a thumping smash as he picked up speed.
A delay to close the roof midway through the fourth set as the light faded offered Berrettini some respite but Alcaraz quickly completed the win after the resumption.
Alcaraz was stopped by another Italian, Jannik Sinner, at the same stage last year, but having reached the quarterfinals for the first time he already has his eyes on going further.
“I’m hungry for more,” Alcaraz said on Centre Court. “It’s something I really wanted. I came in this year with that goal -- get into the quarter-final, I’m wanting more.
“I want to play the final here and maybe win it.”
Any doubts that Alcaraz would struggle to adapt to grass have now been banished for good.
He won the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event at Queen’s Club in what was only his third tournament on grass and his rapid learning curve shows no sign of levelling off.
Against 27-year-old Berrettini, his extraordinary all-round game was demonstrated in emphatic fashion.
The forehand proved more than a match for the Italian’s, his movement was sublime and his serve potent.
One minute he was feathering delicate drop shots to stretch his opponent and the next he was producing volleys the likes of Pete Sampras or Boris Becker would be proud of.
He had the crowd on their feet at regular intervals, one shot in particular having fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief as he chased down an angled Berrettini slice that looked a sure-fire winner and played a shot around the net post.
There were a couple of late hiccups when he sent a volley long on one match point and double faulted on another but he sealed victory as a weary Berrettini hit a forehand wide, the Spaniard raising his fists and roaring in delight.
“I knew that it was going to be really tough. Matteo is a great player, he made the final here on grass,” said Alcaraz.
His clash with Rune, who is a week older, will be the lowest combined age for a Wimbledon men’s quarterfinal in the professional era.
It promises fireworks.
“The young guys are reaching their dreams, coming here and playing the quarterfinals together -- it’s great for tennis,” said Alcaraz.
With eight-time champion Roger Federer retired and his great rival Rafael Nadal set to join him next year, few would disagree.
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