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PIX: Djokovic stops Shapovalov, meets Berrettini in Wimbledon final

Last updated on: July 10, 2021 00:49 IST
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Canada's Denis Shapovalov in the men's singles semi-finals of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021, at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on Friday

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Canada's Denis Shapovalov in the men's singles semi-finals of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021, at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on Friday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Defending champion Novak Djokovic absorbed a barrage of powerful hitting from Canada's Denis Shapovalov to reach his seventh Wimbledon final on Friday with a 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5 victory that kept the indefatigable Serb on course to write history.

 

The 34-year-old was eclipsed at times by his 22-year-old opponent on an overcast Centre Court but as he almost always does, converted his chances in clinical fashion to set up a Sunday showdown with Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Earlier, seventh seed Berrettini stayed solid in the face of a spirited fightback from Poland's Hubert Hurkacz to become the first Italian to reach the Wimbledon final with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory

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 takes on England in the Euro 2020 soccer final a few miles up the road at Wembley Stadium.

Canada's Denis Shapovalov plays a backhand during his semi-final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic

IMAGE: Canada's Denis Shapovalov plays a backhand during his semi-final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photograph: AELTC/Simon Bruty- Pool/Getty Images

Tenth seed Shapovalov was bidding to become only the second Canadian man to reach the Wimbledon final and despite producing some scintillating tennis, he was left pondering what might have been after failing to crack the toughest nut in the business.

He struck 40 winners but whenever Djokovic found himself in peril, he manned the barricades, saving 10 of the 11 break points he faced and making only 15 unforced errors as he refused to be derailed in his pursuit of a 20th Grand Slam title.

Djokovic won the opening set despite Shapovalov serving for it at 5-4, then saved several break points in the second as his opponent threw the kitchen sink at the five-time champion.

Even in the third set Shapovalov continued shooting from the hip but eventually his fire blew out as Djokovic claimed one of the toughest straight sets wins of his Wimbledon career.

Shapovalov left the court with tears in his eyes but he showed enough in a marvellous run to suggest that he is ready to challenge for the biggest prizes in tennis.

Berrettini's success in the past fortnight has not been entirely out of the blue as he arrived at the All England Club after winning his fifth tour-level title at Queen's.

Italy's Matteo Berrettini celebrates victory Poland's Hubert Hurkacz in the men's singles semi-finals of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021

IMAGE: Italy's Matteo Berrettini celebrates victory Poland's Hubert Hurkacz in first the men's singles semi-final on Friday. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

He was the first player to win the Wimbledon warm-up event on his debut appearance since Boris Becker in 1985 and remains on course to match the German's feat of completing the Queen's Club-Wimbledon double in the same year.

"I have no words," Berrettini said in his on-court interview after the match.

"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."

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz appreciates the applause from the crowd as he walks off the court after losing to Italy's Matteo Berrettini.

IMAGE: Poland's Hubert Hurkacz appreciates the applause from the crowd as he walks off the court after losing to Italy's Matteo Berrettini. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Friday's victory also made Berrettini the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Adriano Panatta won the Roland Garros title in 1976.

It was billed as a tight contest between the first-time Wimbledon semi-finalists, who were evenly matched in their ability to serve big and came into the match with a 1-1 head-to-head record.

While Berrettini defeated Hurkacz in straight sets in the Australian Open qualifying draw in 2018, the Pole had returned the favour when they met the following year in Miami.

And following Hurkacz's morale-boosting quarter-final win over eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in straight sets, including a bagel in the third, few would have doubted his credentials against Berrettini. 

But it was the Italian who got off to a crisp start and then dominated the contest, blasting 60 winners, including 22 aces.

In the opening set, Berrettini set up three breakpoints in the third game but Hurkacz dished out couple of strong volleys under pressure to win five straight points and hold serve.

The early warnings had, however, been sounded.

Berrettini saved his first breakpoint with a big serve to hold for 3-3 and then went on to win 10 more games on the run, leaving Hurkacz stunned.

Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz shake hands at the net after their semi-final

IMAGE: Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz shake hands at the net after their semi-final. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Hurkacz looked like a rabbit in the headlights and kept admonishing himself in frustration but failed to find solutions against the Italian's big serves, fast-dropping backhand slices and crunching forehands.

The capacity Centre Court crowd did their best to encourage Hurkacz to put up a fight hoping to extend the match and watch some more tennis.

The Pole responded. After a lengthy comfort break Hurkacz returned with a spring in his step for the third set and did not face a single breakpoint on serve to take it to the tiebreak.

Berrettini, who looked solid despite his opponent's spirited fightback, made some nervous errors in the tie-break, netting a simple volley to let Hurkacz back into the contest.

But the Italian managed to hit the reset button immediately.

After a change of clothes during the break between sets he returned to court to break Hurkacz straight away and then consolidated his advantage for a 2-0 lead. 

That lone break proved to be enough as the Italian continued to serve strongly and he sealed the contest when Hurkacz hit a return into the net on second matchpoint.

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