Battles lines drawn for Berrettini and Djokovic

 - Alex Sharp

The world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini will shoot for their own piece of history in Sunday’s Wimbledon final.

Matteo Berrettini on his way to the Wimbldon final!©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Matteo Berrettini has some wise advice for tennis fans (in particular Italian ones) for this weekend.

I will tell them to buy a nice TV if they don't have already because I think it's going to be a special Sunday for all of us,” said the towering world No.9.

Why? Well, there is the small matter across London at Wembley when England host Italy in the Euro 2020 final. Before that, Berrettini will head onto Centre Court in his first ever Grand Slam final.

"Buy a nice TV"

There’s plenty of reasons to back Berrettini. The 25-year-old has blasted serves in the region of 140 mph all fortnight (22 aces in the semi-final versus Hubert Hurkacz) and is unbeaten on London’s grass courts this summer having lifted the Queen’s Club title last month.

However, over the net Novak Djokovic has his “wolf energy” hunting down a historic triumph.

It will be the world No.1’s 30th major final, a chance for a sixth Wimbledon crown, but more significantly, the 34-year-old is poised to draw level with ‘Big Three’ rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a men’s record 20 Grand Slams.

"It would mean everything"

It would mean everything. That's why I'm playing. I imagined myself being in a position to fight for another Grand Slam trophy prior to coming to London. I put myself in a very good position,” said the recent Roland-Garros winner, on track for a ‘Calendar Golden Slam’ this season.

Anything is possible in the finals. Obviously experience is on my side. But Berrettini has been winning a lot of matches on grass courts this year. He's in great form. He's serving big, playing big. So it's going to be a very tough match I think for both of us. But I'm looking forward to a great battle.

The defiant top seed saved 10 of 11 break points to disarm the scorching firepower of Denis Shapovalov, evading trouble in three tight sets on Friday. Back against the wall, there is no one better.

I don't think you're born with it. I think it comes with time, with experience, with mental and physical work obviously. The more matches you play and the more times you're in these similar situations, the more confident or more comfortable, you feel every next time you get to face these particular circumstances where you're breakpoint down or playing in Grand Slam final stages against top rivals,” mused the five-time Wimbledon champion.

I think that experience definitely favours me every single time, next time I get to work on the court, knowing that I've been through everything that I could possibly go through as a tennis player. I know my strengths. I know what I'm capable of. I rely on that.”

Berrettini continues to stroll between points with a calm assurance, replicating his rocking service motion and unleashing power off his delivery and rocket-fuel forehand.

Just two sets dropped in six matches, Berrettini has become the first Italian man to reach a Wimbledon singles final. He’s not done yet.

I didn't imagine this. When I cross sides with (Boris) Becker, he told me to have a long run in Wimbledon, you have to be like that, like this, try to do this,” said Berrettini of an interview with the three-time Wimbledon champion, sending out a signal of intent.

I'm like, ‘Okay, maybe this guy he step in Wimbledon and he thought about making the finals.’ I didn't think like that. I knew I could do it, but I didn't think I am going to do it because this is how I am. I took every step really careful and slowly. I guess it was the right thing to do. Obviously the job is not done yet. I want to get the trophy now that I'm here. But just it's really unbelievable feeling.”

The Italian had his parents and brother Jacopo (world No.448) in the stands at SW19 on Friday. Its means everything to Djokovic, but it’s easy to forget the significance for the Roman.

It means everything. Thanks to them, with my brother, we still practice together. He's still playing,” continued the 25-year-old.

When we were kids, we were going holiday, we were always bringing our rackets. We played so many times, even without the ball, just pretending we were playing in our living room a great final. We were pretending to be players that now I'm playing against. Just everything crazy.

Tennis is in my family. Also my grandparents are still playing. It's something we have in DNA, and it makes me feel so good to have them here.

“I think I fully deserve to be here. I want to enjoy like I did today. I want to enjoy my first final. I just appreciate what's happening. So I'm very happy.

Remember your first time

Djokovic, who defeated Berrettini in four compelling sets at Roland-Garros 2021, recalled his first major final of 2007.

New York, I lost I think three tough sets to Roger,” stated the Serbian, remembering a 7-6(4), 7-6(2), 6-4 triumph for Federer. “I remember that I was just so thrilled to be in the finals. I had a good match against Roger, but I just probably did not believe enough I guess in the victory at certain moments when the scoreline was close.”

A final with a seismic significance in the landscape of men’s tennis. If the scoreline is close, Djokovic has his reservoir of resources to rely on, but can Berrettini ‘believe enough’ and blast his way to a maiden major?