The victories keep adding up for Novak Djokovic: 20 during a row at Wimbledon since the beginning of the 2018 tournament, 20 during a row altogether slam matches since the beginning of this season. Get both streaks up to 21 on Sunday by beating Matteo Berrettini within the final at the All England Club, and Djokovic will tie rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a 20th major championship, the foremost for a person in tennis history. “It would mean everything,” the No. 1-ranked Djokovic said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing.”
He worked his way in and out of trouble against a way younger, much-less-experienced opponent Friday until eliminating No. 10 Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 within the semifinals at Centre Court. Each set was tight and intense. Each seemed to be within Shapovalov’s grasp — until it had been in Djokovic’s. “He was serving for the first set. He was better for many of the second set; had tons of opportunities and just didn’t manage to shut it out when he needed to,” said Djokovic, who at 34 is 12 years older than Shapovalov. “In important moments, I feel I probably held my nerves better than he did and just (made) he play an additional shot, (made) he do an unforced error.”
Djokovic made just 15 unforced errors, Shapovalov 36. the opposite key stats: Djokovic saved 5 of 5 break points within the second set, then 3 of three within the third. “What hurt such a lot at this point was just that I felt just like the game is there and it’s possible to travel and play for the trophy,” said Shapovalov, who walked off in tears after falling to 0-7 against Djokovic. “It’s a sense I’ve never had before, so that’s why it just hurt such a lot. I felt like I used to be outplaying Novak in parts of the match. If you’re outplaying Novak, you’ll beat anyone.” So true. Now another new-to-these-stages foe, No. 7 seed Berrettini, will provide it an attempt.
Cries of “Vai!” (Go!), “Forza!” (Let’s go!) and even “Andiamo, Amore Mio!” (Let’s go, my love!) rang through the All England Club’s main stadium earlier, supporting Berrettini in his native tongue on his thanks to becoming Italy’s first slam male finalist in 45 years. With booming serves delivering 22 aces, and powerful forehands helping compile a complete of 60 winners, Berrettini used an 11-game run to grab an enormous lead and persisted to beat No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4. Djokovic is trying to gather a sixth championship at Wimbledon — and third straight — to travel along side nine from the Australian Open, three from the U.S. Open and two from the French Open.
And then there’s this: After collecting trophies on the hard courts of Melbourne Park in February, and therefore the clay of Roland Garros in June — defeating Berrettini within the quarterfinals there — Djokovic seeks a triumph on the grass of the All England Club to urge three-quarters of the thanks to a calendar-year slam, with only the U.S. Open remaining. No man has achieved that three-title stretch within one year — including all four — since Laver won the slam in 1969. This will be Djokovic’s 30th major final, Berrettini’s first. very much like it had been Djokovic’s 41st major semifinal, Shapovalov’s first.
“Obviously, the work isn’t done yet,” said the 25-year-old Berrettini, who lost his only previous Slam semifinal, at the 2019 U.S. Open. “I want to urge the trophy now that I’m here.” He owns an 11-match streak on grass courts, including the title at the Queen’s Club tuneup last month, when he became the primary man since Boris Becker in 1985 to win the trophy in his debut at that event. “Matteo played (an) unbelievable match,” said Hurkacz, who received Wimbledon on a six-match streak but beat Federer and No. 2, Daniil Medvedev, to succeed in his first Slam semifinal. “I didn’t have many chances, basically. Probably zero.”
When he got broken for the primary time, the 24-year-old from Poland sat for the following changeover and, between bites of a banana, motioned to his American coach, Craig Boynton, to regulate the seating arrangements in their guest box. As if that were the difficulty. Cheered from the stands by his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic, who made it to the quarterfinals in the week, and his parents and brother — Mom captured his on-court interview together with her cellphone — Berrettini was two points from winning within the third set.
But Hurkacz extended the competition to an additional set before Berrettini asserted himself again. A lefty with a vibrant, sometimes violent, swing, including when it involves his one-handed backhand, Shapovalov kept pushing Djokovic to the brink, but couldn’t quite get the work done. That backhand forced a Djokovic error to conclude a 15-stroke exchange that provided Shapovalov with an opportunity and a 2-1 edge. He stretched that to 5-3 and was two points from taking the set within the next game, but couldn’t meet up with.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Shapovalov faltered — pushed by Djokovic’s indefatigable defense. Djokovic broke, then was better within the tiebreaker. Not perfect, but better. Mostly playing it safe and letting Shapovalov err worked just fine. Shapovalov double-faulted to finish that set. He did so again to urge broken to trail 6-5 within the second. And again within the game that left him behind 6-5 within the third. By then, Djokovic was punching the air and shouting, knowing the match’s end, and another final was near. ___