WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Wimbledon tips defending champ Novak Djokovic’s showdown with first-time finalist Matteo Berrettini.
23:00 (AEST), Sun 11th Jul @ All England Club, Wimbledon
History: Played 2: Djokovic 2 V Berrettini 0
Last meeting: French Open, 2021 (QF): Djokovic d Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 7-5
Final Thoughts: Novak Djokovic gets the opportunity win a Federer- and Nadal-equalling 20th Grand Slam in his 30th major final. The defending 2018-19 champ is in line for his sixth Wimbledon title.
Also motivating the world No.1 will be his quest to become the first player to capture all four Slams in the same year since Rod Laver in 1968.
On the other side of the net will be a player featuring in his first Grand Slam decider, Matteo Berrettini. The seventh seed had reached the last four of a major prior to this Wimbledon campaign but loomed as a dark horse after winning the Queen’s Club Championships.
Djokovic’s path to the final
Unlike his rollercoaster journey to French Open glory (which included a quarter-final win over Berretini), Djokovic has enjoyed almost exclusively smooth sailing to the Wimbledon final.
The 34-year-old dropped the first set in the first round against Jack Draper but went on to win easily. He then accounted for Kevin Anderson, Denis Kudla, 17th seed Cristian Garin and Marton Fucsovics in straight sets. Each of those five victories were by margins of at least six games.
Tenth seed Denis Shapovalov provided a sterner test in the semi-finals, but Djokovic saw him off 7-6 7-5 7-5. He hasn’t been electrifying, but he has barely been tested.
Berrettini’s path to the final
Berrettini has rarely looked in too much trouble over the past fortnight. He defeated Guido Pella in four sets first up, then overwhelmed Botic van de Zandschulp, Aljaz Bedene and Ilya Ivashka in straight sets.
In-form 16th seed Felix Aguer Aliassime was subdued 6-3 5-7 7-5 6-3 in the quarters, before the 25-year-old powered past giant-killing 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-4 to become the first Italian to reach a Wimbledon final.
Berrettini slammed 22 aces past Hurkacz – his fourth haul of 20-plus aces during the tournament.
Djokovic has won both previous encounters with Berrettini. He dropped just three games in an ATP Finals rout in 2019 and prevailed in four hard-fought sets when they met in the French Open quarter-finals last month.
Djokovic is 19-10 in Grand Slam finals – including 5-1 at Wimbledon. Perhaps most ominously for Berrettini, Djokovic has won 10 of his last 12 and six of his last seven major finals. Coming from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the recent French Open final underlined Djokovic’s fighting qualities and composure.
How Berrettini handles the occasion of his first Grand Slam final is the big question mark. But an 11-match winning streak and his locked-in serve and forehand hold him in good stead to push the seemingly unbeatable Djokovic.
Djokovic should arrive in the decider relatively fresh, however. And he has another level or two to go to. As good as Berrettini has been, I can’t overlook the value in the fifth straight-sets victory from Djokovic’s last seven major final wins.