Wimbledon: Berrettini stands between Djokovic and history

  • Matt Trollope

Can Matteo Berrettini halt Novak Djokovic’s seemingly relentless progress towards the summit of tennis history?

When the two men clash in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, we will see whether the sport’s present continues to rule, or whether its future can create an extraordinary upset.

The 34-year-old Djokovic, almost a decade older than his Italian opponent, is appearing in a 30th Grand Slam final, whereas Berrettini is through to his first.

As Djokovic noted following his semifinal win over Denis Shapovlov: “Hopefully people can also recognise also the importance of this match for me, the history that is on the line."

The reward for the Serb would be a 20th Grand Slam singles title, putting himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exactly – and incredibly – level at the top of the men’s all-time list.

And it would also see Djokovic complete the third of five legs as he chases an extremely rare calendar-year Golden Grand Slam of the four major titles plus Olympic gold.

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Despite the significance attached to the result of his Wimbledon campaign, Djokovic has so far displayed few signs of being affected by any pressure.

After losing his first set of the tournament to Jack Draper, he has won 18 straight to advance to his seventh Wimbledon final.

He has won five of those, including the two most recent Wimbledon finals in 2018 and 2019, and will play for a hat-trick of titles at the All England Club against an opponent to whom he has never lost.

Head-to-head: Djokovic 2-0 Berrettini

Year

Winner

Score

Event

Round

Surface

2021

Djokovic

6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5

Roland Garros

QF

Clay

2019

Djokovic

6-2 6-1

ATP Finals

RR

Hard (indoor)


Djokovic is wary of the Italian, who takes an 11-match winning streak into the final after winning the Queen’s title, and who has won 25 of his past 28 matches.

“He's one of the best players in the world in the last 12 months I think. He's just working his way up,” noted Djokovic, who was pushed to four tough sets by Berrettini in their most recent meeting last month at Roland Garros.

“With big weapons in serve and forehand, I mean, he can play well, which he has proven, on any surface. Obviously grass favours him even more, favours his game. If he serves big, as he did throughout the entire tournament, it's tough to break his serve, 

“But I believe in my return. I think return has served me very well throughout my career. Hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of those serves back and wait for my chances.

“I will have to also serve myself efficiently as I've done (in the semifinals). I think I served very well, especially when I needed a first serve, getting myself out of trouble, I found it.

“It's finals. It's really anybody's game. He's arguably the guy who has been in the best form on grass courts this year, winning Queen's. He's red hot. 

“It's going to be a great battle.”

Novak Djokovic (L) defeated Matteo Berrettini (R) in their most recent meeting at Roland Garros. (Getty Images)

Berrettini is certainly up for the battle, speaking with excitement about the upcoming final after stopping Hubert Hurkacz in a four-set semifinal on Friday.

However, he next faces an opponent whose great form overshadows his own impressive unbeaten run.

Djokovic has not lost in his last 17 matches, and takes winning streaks of 20 – both at Grand Slam level, and on grass – into Sunday’s decider.

We are yet to discover how Berrettini will handle the occasion of the biggest match of his career, on the world’s most famous court, against the best player on the planet – and possibly of all time. 

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But from his sentiments in press, it seems his joy at taking this important career step could outweigh the nerves he will no doubt experience on Sunday.

“I'm just so, so happy for everything. I think I fully deserve to be here,” the world No.9 said.

“It's going to be a great atmosphere. My first final in Wimbledon, it's just crazy to think about it.

“I want to enjoy like I did (against Hurkacz). I want to enjoy my first final. Whoever's going to win today, I just appreciate what's happening. 

“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.”