Matteo Berrettini survived a scare at the Cinch Championships on Thursday to keep his title defence alive.
The Italian recovered from a slow start on a sun-baked centre court in London to rally past American lucky loser Denis Kudla 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 and extend his winning streak to six matches.
“It was a really tough match,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “We know each other really well. I am glad I am through. I think he played a really good match and most of the time I think he deserved to win, but I was there and worked hard and I am just really happy.”
The second seed, who lifted the trophy at the ATP 500 grass-court event last season, struggled to find his best level against the resilient Kudla in a hard-fought second-round battle.
The World No. 82 caused Berrettini problems with his intensity and consistency for large periods but was ultimately unable to prevail. Kudla broke back to level at 4-4 in the third set but then missed a forehand on top of the net to lose serve in the next game.
World No. 10 Berrettini, who fired 22 aces in the match, capitalised on his chance, fending off one break point to hold serve and advance after two hours and 45 minutes.
“I have felt a lot of support since the first match last year,” Berrettini added. “That is why I love to come here. The Club is great but the crowd is unbelievable, they helped me a lot today, so thank you.”
The 26-year-old now leads Kudla 3-2 in their ATP Head2Head series and will next play American Tommy Paul in the quarter-finals.
Berrettini has yet to lose since he returned to Tour last week following right-hand surgery. The six-time tour-level titlist soared to the trophy in Stuttgart, before he defeated Daniel Evans in his opening match in London.
Kudla was aiming to earn his first Top 10 win and reach the quarter-finals at The Queen’s Club for the second time, after enjoying a run to the last eight in 2013. He arrived at The Queen's Club in good form, having defeated Andy Murray en route to the final at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Surbiton last month.
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British wild card Ryan Peniston continued his dream ATP Tour debut run by edging Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and one minute.
The 26-year-old, who upset top seed Casper Ruud in the first round, rallied from a break down in the third set as he demonstrated an abundance of grit and quality in front of a raucous home crowd to reach the quarter-finals.
“I don’t think I want to wake up from this anytime soon,” Peniston said in his on-court interview. “I took a lot of confidence from the last match against Casper [Ruud] and came out guns blazing. [The] second set didn’t go to plan, he kept fighting. Francisco is a great player. I just managed to fight in the third set and got over the line and I am pretty happy with it.”
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Last year, when he was No. 375 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Peniston lost in the first round of qualifying in London. Following his win against Cerundolo, he is up to No. 145 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The Briton will next face Serbian Filip Krajinovic or American qualifier Sam Querrey.