After four days of Mediterranean style weather, the God’s decided that it was time for a traditional rain delay at Queen’s and they nearly succeeded in preventing any matches being called but fortunately, only one was suspended due to light after play at the cinch Championships finally resumed late in the afternoon.
The court condition was really good. I expected slippery conditions, but it was like yesterday. I came here to win the tournament, that is my goal. Now I am two steps away, I will think about the next match tomorrow. I am happy with the way I am playing, and my mental attitude is really good, Matteo Berrettini
Prior to that decision being made, the top seed from Italy, Matteo Berrettini knocked out the British No.1 Dan Evans 7-6(5) 6-3 and will face the fourth seed from Australia, Alex De Minaur who downed Stuttgart winner and former Queen’s champion Marin Cilic 3-6 6-3 6-4.
In the bottom half of the draw the British No.2 Cameron Norrie knocked out the impressive wildcard, No.7 in the national rankings and 305 on the ATP circuit, Jack Draper 6-3 6-3 in what was an intriguing clash between two fellow Brits. Norrie now awaits the winner of the suspended match which currently sees the second seed from Canada, Denis Shapovalov leading American Frances Tiafoe 6-3 when it was stopped for the night.
The highlights of the Friday’s schedule were the performances of the Brits, with all three doing themselves credit.
For Evans the task was the greater but not necessarily impossible and he held his own during the first set despite an edgy start against Berrettini, a semi-finalist at last year’s US Open and current world No.9, whose power had overwhelmed Andy Murray 24-hours earlier.
The British No.1, world ranked 25, saved all eight break points he faced in the first set where he only had one opportunity to go ahead but hung on for the tiebreak which proved equally tight.
There Berrettini, who has plenty of variety and soft hands, showed he was just not a powerhouse with a strong serve as he took control of the tiebreak in the latter stages to take the lead.
With his confidence boosted, Berrettini was quick to establish control of the second set using his powerful serve to full effect and progress, as expected, into the semi-finals.
Evans though was not disheartened as he builds up to Wimbledon, which starts on 28 June.
“I thought he played a good match and I thought I did well to hang around,” he said.
“Obviously I got in some winning positions in the first set and didn’t take them. So that’s life.
“But I’m right there or thereabouts where I want to be at this point on the grass.”
For Berrettini, making his debut at Queen’s, satisfaction at having adapted to the grass as well as he has.
“1 (am) in the Queen’s main draw, beat home favourite Evans in straight sets 7-6(5) 6-3 to reach the Queen’s semi-final.
“I didn’t serve that well, but I was returning well and I just played better in the last few points of the tie-break,” Berrettini admitted.
“After that, I felt more confident. The conditions were really tough, windy and cold, so I took time to adapt a little bit. I am pretty happy with my performance,” Berrettini told the ATP website.
“The court condition was really good. I expected slippery conditions, but it was like yesterday. I came here to win the tournament, that is my goal. Now I am two steps away, I will think about the next match tomorrow. I am happy with the way I am playing, and my mental attitude is really good,” the Italian added.
His next opponent is the 22-year-old Alex de Minaur who is proving to be the dark horse in the race for the title after he dispatched former champion Marin Cilic for his second semi-final of the season at an ATP 500 event.
“I’m extremely proud of myself, of how I handled the situation, the adversity today, the conditions, and I was able to play a very high-quality match,” said De Minaur following his three-set victory who believes his clash with Berrettini will be fun.
But the big match of the day, as far as home supporters were concerned, was the meeting between Norrie and Draper, and whether the 19-year-old youngster could continue to cause upsets having beaten Jannik Sinner of Italy, seeded 3, and Alexander Bublic of Kazakhstan earlier in the week for his first successes at senior level on the ATP Tour.
But 25-year-old Norrie is currently very much one the most consistent players on the tour this season with 29 wins to his credit having used the lockdown to gain extra fitness, stamina and strength.
And so it proved against his young countryman, the 2019 Junior Wimbledon Boy’s finalist, who unlike his two wins to date played in conditions which suited his powerful game, was unable to adapt to the slower ones which prevailed that evening.
Norrie with two clay-court finals already this season but still without a Tour title, broke Draper twice in the opening set and once in the second while fending off the five break chances his young opponent held, while Draper failed to convert any of the five break points he negotiated.
“I served well when I needed to, especially when I was facing a couple of break points,” Norrie said.
“It was just a matter of who played the bigger points better and I think I did slightly and that was the difference. A good day under pressure.”
Norrie should rise into the top 40 for the first time in his career when the rankings are updated on Monday.