Defending champion Matteo Berrettini stayed on course for back-to-back titles on grass as he recovered from a setback to beat lucky loser Denis Kudla and reach the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club.
Berrettini won 3-6, 7-5(5), 6-4 on Thursday and will be one of only two seeds in the quarterfinals.
The second-seeded Italian, who beat Andy Murray in the Stuttgart final on Sunday, only recently returned after three months out with a hand injury and has been slow with his shots background throughout a fierce game in balmy conditions in west London.
Berrettini’s booming serve, which took him to the Wimbledon final last year, finally bailed him out after Kudla – ranked No. 82 – won the first set without facing a break point .
Three Berrettini aces helped him win the second-set tiebreaker, after which he called the coach.
Berrettini broke for 3-2 in the third set, was immediately broken himself, then took advantage of an unforced error at the net by Kudla – a Ukrainian American – to break again for 5-4.
The Italian saved a break point in the next game, in which he sent a 140mph (225mph) serve, and won the game on the first attempt with a backhand volley winner.
Berrettini, who had 22 aces and 33 unforced errors, beat Cameron Norrie in last year’s Wimbledon warm-up final and has now won 17 of his last 18 matches on grass. Norrie is one of six of eight seeds already eliminated before the end of the second round.
No.7 Marin Cilic is the only other ranked player.
Berrettini next faces Tommy Paul, who beat three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4 earlier on Thursday. Paul beat sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov in the first round.
Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who beat 2010 champion Sam Querrey 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and British wildcard winner Ryan Peniston 6-0, 4-6, 6-4, also qualified for the quarter-finals. against Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.
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