New York, September 5: Matteo Berrettini revealed the occasion of playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium left him checking his heartbeat during his epic quarter-final win over Gael Monfils at the US Open.
Berrettini clinched a place in his first grand slam semi-final in a near four-hour battle with Monfils, winning the fifth set in a tie-break as he prevailed 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-6 (7-5) on Wednesday (September 4).
The Italian's run to the last four follows an excellent Wimbledon campaign in which he reached the fourth round before losing to 20-time major champion Roger Federer.
Speaking in his post-match media conference, 24th seed Berrettini was asked to name the tournament he dreamed of winning as a child and replied: "I have to be honest -- I always said Wimbledon. There you feel something different, it's grass.
"This stadium [Arthur Ashe] is unbelievable. The feelings I had -- I was checking my heart beating during the match. I was, like, 'Oh, what's happening?' Then I said, 'Okay, it's normal. This is a football stadium. It's not like a tennis stadium'.
"I'm trying to keep going, and I'm dreaming, as well. Why not?"
While success in men's singles has been limited for Italian players, Berrettini has plenty of inspiration to draw from on the women's side of things.
Francesca Schiavone won the French Open in 2010 and Flavia Pennetta claimed an all-Italian US Open final with Roberta Vinci in 2015.
"I remember watching the finals here. I was in Italia playing a future in 2015. So four years ago," Berrettini added.
"It was unbelievable, for them, for Italy. I remember President Giovanni Malago coming to watch the match.
"So for sure it was an inspiration. Francesca, as well. Sara [Errani]. They won -- I don't know. I forgot how many Fed Cups they won. For sure they showed us how to do it.
"I'm really looking forward to beating their records. Why not? I mean, I'm here. Actually Flavia texted me today. So she was really happy for me. She told me to keep going.
"It's good to have such good players behind you."