Djokovic and talented trio edge towards Wimbledon glory

 - Alex Sharp

Five-time champion Novak Djokovic has done it all, but three men (Shapovalov, Berrettini, Hurkacz) have joined him in the Wimbledon semi-finals looking to carve out their own history.

Denis Shapovalov Wimbledon 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

After all the talk and speculation, the Wimbledon men’s draw has been whittled down to the final four.

On Wednesday, defending champion Novak Djokovic steam-rolled Marton Fucsovics in straight sets to book his 10th semi-final at SW19, where he’ll meet Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov.

Roger Federer’s conqueror Hubert Hurkacz is rewarded with a maiden major semi-final, up against recent Queen’s Club champion Matteo Berrettini.

The world No.1, five-time champion, shooting for a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam, all factors point to the Serbian’s name being etched onto the trophy once again.

However, having taken out Karen Khachanov in five sets, Shapovalov is adamant he has the firepower to dismantle the top seed in his first Grand Slam semi-final. 

“Obviously he's gotten the better of me (0-6 record). But the last couple times that we've played, it's been really, really tight,” reflected the defiant No.10 seed, pushing Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 at ATP Cup in January. “I’m feeling great physically and tennis-wise. It's definitely a tough battle ahead of me. I'm going to fight for every point and believe in myself.

"He's the best player in the world but I think anything is possible. 

“When you look at the scoreboard first thing on Friday, it's gonna be 0-0. Nothing else matters. I do believe that I have the game to beat him and the game to win that match.”

There won’t be any complacency from the Djokovic camp, especially with so much history on line. 

“Maybe big matches, he was not winning those in the last couple of years. It seems like he's maturing, which is also something that is normal, it's logical. You would expect that from a player like him that has really an all-around game,” stated the world No.1, fully aware of the Shapovalov artillery. 

“I'm sure that that's going to be the biggest test I will have so far in the tournament, which is also expected. It's semi-finals. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a battle and I need to be at my best.”

Shapovalov will need to go for broke, to attack with his foot to the floor to have a chance. The top seed has been in ominous form, notching up his 100th grass court win on Wednesday, his 19th successive victory at the All England Club. 

“Overall, I feel like I've been playing, hitting the ball well throughout the entire tournament, putting myself exactly where I want to be. Not spending too much energy,” added the Serbian. “I'm confident.”

Hurkacz backed up his five-set triumph over No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev to completely outmanoeuvre eight-time champion Federer, becoming the second Polish man in history to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam.

“Walking off the court realising that I won against Roger, just kind of dream come true, especially here on grass in Wimbledon. Felt so special with the crowd around as well,” beamed the Miami Masters winner, who has frequently been drawn into comparisons with two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in his shot style, his movement and his walk.

“Andy is unbelievable player, what he has achieved. Being compared to such a great player is special,” said the 24-year-old. “I'm trying also to develop little bit of my style. The way I play is a bit different.”

Hurkacz will have to bring his versatility and prowess at the net to bring the booming Berrettini off balance.

The in-form Italian can draw upon a semi-final showing at the 2019 US Open, but the world No.9 insists his game and belief has elevated even more since then. 

“Playing good, fighting like I'm doing now, but it was more unexpected. Now, stepping in this tournament, I knew that I could do it. I know that also the run is not over,” maintained the 25-year-old, after his impressive four set triumph over close friend Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“Before this tournament I just felt that I'm a better player now. I have more experience. I had more matches on my shoulders. Everything that I am achieving, it's great, but it's not something that I didn't expect.

“Playing Hubert is going to be really tough. He beat Daniil, beat Roger in a row, and he's feeling good. He's having a great season so far, so it's gonna be tough one. Right now I just want to enjoy this moment, because it's been two years since I was in my first semis, so now it's time to cheer a little bit.”