LONDON: Novak Djokovic is into his seventh Wimbledon final.
The top-ranked Serb outplayed 10th-seeded Denis Shapovalov on the key points to win their semi-final 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-5 on Friday to move one victory away from a sixth Wimbledon title and record-equalling 20th major title.
Shapovalov repeatedly put pressure on Djokovic but faltered at the crucial moments. He failed to serve out the first set at 5-3 and then double-faulted on set point in the tiebreaker.
Djokovic saved all five break points he faced in the second set before Shapovalov double-faulted again to hand him a 6-5 lead.
Djokovic broke again for 6-5 in the third set and served out the match at love.
A seventh final at the All England Club ties Djokovic for second on the all-time list, equaling Boris Becker, Arthur Gore and Pete Sampras. Roger Federer has played in 12 Wimbledon finals, winning eight.
In Sunday’s final, Djokovic will face Matteo Berrettini after the world number nine became the first Italian to reach a Wimbledon singles final by beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4.
With booming serves delivering 22 aces, and powerful forehands helping compile a total of 60 winners, the seventh-seeded Berrettini used an 11-game run to grab a big lead and then held on to beat Poland’s Hurkacz.
The 25-year-old took two hours and 36 minutes to get past the 14th seeded Hurkacz on Centre Court to reach the championship match on Sunday — the same day Italy play in the Euro 2020 final a few miles up the road at Wembley Stadium against England.
“I have no words,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “I need, I think, couple of hours to understand what happened. I just know that I played a great match. I’m really happy. I’m really glad to be here. I think I never dreamed about this because it was too much for a dream.”
Friday’s victory made Berrettini the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Adriano Panatta won the Roland Garros title in 1976.
“So far, it’s the best day, tennis-wise, of my life, said Berrettini, who lost his only previous major semi-final at the 2019 US Open. “Hopefully Sunday’s going to be even better.” Berrettini, having wasted three break points earlier in the first set, eventually broke through in the seventh game, backing it up in the ninth, converting set point courtesy of an ugly forehand shank from the Pole.
He then raced through the second set in just 23 minutes, a Hurkacz double fault and a wrong-footing forehand allowing Berrettini to seal a 10th successive game.
That became 11 games in a row at the start of the third set before 18th-ranked Hurkacz, bidding to be the first Polish man to make a Slam final, stopped the rot.
Hurkacz held on and swept the third set tiebreaker but his momentum was quickly halted as the Italian broke for 1-0 in the fourth.
Berrettini was unable to convert a match point in the ninth game but made no mistake on his own service.
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2021