Berrettini keeps title defense alive at Queen’s Club

LONDON (AP) — Defending champion Matteo Berrettini stayed on course for back-to-back grass-court titles by recovering from a set down to beat lucky loser Denis Kudla and reach the Queen’s Club quarterfinals on Thursday.

Berrettini won 3-6, 7-5 (5), 6-4 and will be one of just two seeded players in the quarterfinals.

The second-seeded Italian, who beat Andy Murray in the Stuttgart final on Sunday, has only recently returned from three months out because of hand injury and was sluggish with his groundstrokes throughout a hard-fought match in balmy conditions in west London.

Berrettini’s booming serve, which took him to the Wimbledon final last year, eventually bailed him out after Kudla — ranked No. 82 — won the first set without facing a break point.

Three aces from Berrettini helped him win the second-set tiebreaker, after which he called for the trainer.

Berrettini broke for 3-2 in the third set, was immediately broken himself, then benefitted from a unforced error at the net by Kudla — an Ukrainian-born American — to break again for 5-4.

The Italian saved a break point in the next game, during which he sent down a serve at 140mph (225mph), and clinched the match at the first attempt with a winner from a backhand volley.

Berrettini, who had 22 aces and 33 unforced errors, beat Cameron Norrie in last year’s final of the Wimbledon warmup and has now won 17 of his last 18 matches on grass. Norrie is one of six — of eight — seeded players already out before the second round has even finished.

No. 7 Marin Cilic is the only other seeded player through.

Berrettini next faces Tommy Paul, who beat three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4 earlier Thursday. Paul beat sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov in the first round.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals were Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, who beat 2010 champion Sam Querrey 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and British wild-card entry Ryan Peniston, a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 winner against Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.

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