By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Italian Matteo Berrettini regrouped from a series of squandered chances in the third set to brush aside Britain's Andy Murray 6-4 6-4 6-7(1) 6-3 on Friday, harnessing his powerful forehand to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
Playing in the third round in New York for the first time in six years, Murray appeared utterly outmatched as Berrettini rocketed across nine aces and 19 winners in the first set and extinguished the Briton's sole break point opportunity.
The situation went from bad to worse for the 2012 champion in the second set, when a dejected Murray tossed his racket towards his bench after handing 13th seed Berrettini the break with a double fault in the ninth game.
But the tables turned as the 26-year-old Italian was unable to convert any of eight break point chances in the third set and handed his 35-year-old opponent the momentum in the tiebreak with a handful of unforced errors.
Berrettini, who beat Murray in the Stuttgart final earlier this year, said he tried to play more "brave" in the fourth set, getting the critical break in the eighth game after forcing the twice Wimbledon winner into a backhand error.
"I guess you learn from the past a little bit," said Berrettini, who clinched the contest with an ace to cheers from the rowdy crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I wasn't aggressive enough on the break points," he added.
The win provided a much needed boost for the Italian who has been sidelined a number of times this season due to injuries or illness. Berrettini, who missed Wimbledon after testing positive for COVID-19, had a forgettable build-up to Flushing Meadows after losing his opening matches in Montreal and Cincinnati.
"I didn't have a lot of confidence, I didn't have a lot of matches. But I had a lot of will (to play) good, and I'm in the fourth round again," he told reporters. "Still not done yet, but happy for what is happening."
The world number 14 faces Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina, who beat him in Monte Carlo last year, in the next round.
Murray said he was pleased to have upped his level in the third set against a tough opponent.
"I've not been in loads of those matches recently and maybe that showed a little bit in those moments," the Scot, who has struggled to regain top form since undergoing two hip surgeries, told reporters.
"I'm surprised that I was able to compete as well as I did with someone that's as good as him."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)