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 tennis Grand Slam semifinal.
They'll have a lot to chat about when it comes to this latest victory.
Berrettini, a 23-year-old from Rome, gave Italy a spot in the final four at the US 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 yesterday in New York.
"One of the best matches I ever saw. I was playing, but I was watching, also," Berrettini said with a grin.
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 afterwards, saying he felt "a little bit tight."
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 No2 Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. The other men's semifinal that day is No5 Daniil Medvedev against unseeded Grigor Dimitrov, who beat an injured Roger Federer in five sets to become, at No78, the lowest-ranked semifinalist at the US Open since 1991.
Like Berrettini and Medvedev, Belinda Bencic also reached her first Grand Slam semifinal.
She followed up her upset of defending champion and No1 seed Naomi Osaka by taking the last four games of a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over No23 Donna Vekic.
"I felt like I couldn't get three good points together," Vekic said.
Berrettini-Monfils began on a muggy afternoon and concluded with Ashe's retractable roof shut after rain came during the third set.
Monfils, who is 10 years older, fell to 2-7 in major quarter-finals and could be forgiven for wondering how many more chances he'll get.
Berrettini, meanwhile, is on top of the world. With Corrado Barazzutti, Italy's only other male semifinalist at the US Open, back in 1977, in the stands yesterday, Berrettini used his big forehand to produce 24 winners.
He found an Italian restaurant he loves on the Lower East Side, so has been eating there throughout the tournament, and even had someone who works there in his guest box, wearing a shirt festooned with the word "Carbonara."