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Wimbledon men's final preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Matteo Berrettini
The one thing Berrettini hasn’t done is beat a Top 10 player on his way to the final—which means he hasn’t faced anyone remotely as good as Djokovic.
Published Jul 10, 2021
PRESS CONFERENCE: Novak Djokovic after his semifinal win at Wimbledon.
“It’s finals,” Novak Djokovic said, looking ahead to his title match with Matteo Berrettini on Sunday. “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.”
As you can see, Djokovic was full of praise for the Italian, who is nine years his junior and playing in his first Grand Slam final. He said Berrettini has been one of the best players in the world the last 12 months, that his serve and forehand are major weapons, that he can play on any surface, and that he’s especially tough on grass.
“If he serves big, as he did throughout the entire tournament, it’s tough to break his serve,” Djokovic said.
All of this is true. Berrettini has won straight 11 matches on grass, and he seems to be peaking at the right time. He played an unbelievably clean match—60 winners to 18 errors, 22 aces, no breaks of serve—to beat Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals. Berrettini’s backhand, which once used to look like a liability, has been another strength for him on the surface. He can carve under the ball for biting slices, and drive it with two hands on passes and approaches. He has also shown few signs any nerves.
The one thing Berrettini hasn’t done is beat a Top 10 player on his way to the final; the 14th-ranked Hurkacz was his highest-ranked opponent. Which means he hasn’t faced anyone remotely as good as Djokovic—anyone who can get as many balls back, anyone who can hold his serve as efficiently, anyone who has won a single major title, let alone 19. Perhaps most important, Berrettini hasn’t faced anyone with Djokovic’s return of serve.
“I believe in my return,” Djokovic said. “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.”
For Djokovic, this is another opportunity for him to hold off the Next Gen for at least one more Slam. He beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final. Surface-wise, Berrettini may pose the biggest threat of the three, and he could steamroll Djokovic for a period of time on Sunday. Berrettini will have youth, and the crowd, on his side, and Djokovic will have the pressure that comes with trying to tie Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with his 20th major title, and keep his calendar-year Grand Slam bid alive.
Djokovic may feel alone on Centre Court, with a younger opponent on the other side of the net and the weight of history on his shoulders. Which is exactly why he’ll probably win.