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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Wimbledon semifinals: Berrettini vs. Hurkacz

By Ricky Dimon

For the most part it has been all or nothing for Hubert Hurkacz in 2021.

The 24-year-old from Poland has won more than one match at only four tournaments this season. In three of those four he has advanced at least five rounds. He won Delray Beach, won Miami, and now he finds himself in the Wimbledon semifinals. Everything else–aside from a mediocre quarterfinal result at a 250-point event in Melbourne–has been terrible.

But the good Hurkacz is alive and well in London, where his Grand Slam breakthrough has come at the expense of Lorenzo Musetti, Marcos Giron, Alexander Bublik, Daniil Medvedev, and Roger Federer. The world No. 18 didn’t just defeat Federer; he erased the 20-time Grand Slam champion 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0.

“I was trying always to believe myself during the match and just trust my game and stay as aggressive as I could,” Hurkacz explained. “That what I was trying to focus on throughout the match…. Obviously walking off the court realizing that I won against Roger (was) just kind of a dream come true–especially here on grass in Wimbledon. (It) felt so special with the crowd around, as well.”

Hurkacz will be back on Centre Court for a surprising semifinal against Matteo Berrettini on Friday afternoon. They have split their two previous encounters; Berrettini prevailed 7-6(5), 6-3 in Australian Open qualifying before Hurakcz got revenge via a 6-4, 6-3 decision one year later in Miami.

Both players are completely different now, but it is Berrettini who has really taken off–even though he still lacks the Masters 1000 title that Hurkacz owns. The ninth-ranked Italian has been in the top 10 for much of the last two seasons, thanks in part to a previous slam semifinal trip at the 2019 U.S. Open. He also reached the Madrid final this spring and made a run to the French Open quarters before falling to Novak Djokovic in a tight four-setter.

Heating up to an even greater extent on grass, Berrettini is on a 10-match winning streak with a title at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon victories over Guido Pella, Botic Van de Zandschulp, Aljaz Bedene, Ilya Ivashka, and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“I would say that it’s different, but at the same time it’s great,” the 25-year-old said, comparing this fortnight to 2019 in New York. “Obviously (at the) U.S. Open I didn’t know before the tournament that I could achieve that. I just played match after match, and I kind of found myself in the semis. I mean, (I was) playing [well], fighting like I’m doing now…but it was more unexpected.

“Now, stepping into this tournament, I knew that I could do it. I know that also the run is not over. So it’s different. Before this tournament I just felt that I’m a better player now; I have more experience…. Everything that I am achieving is great, but it’s not something that I didn’t expect.”

He certainly won’t be expecting to lose on Friday. Berrettini has a bigger serve and forehand than Hurkacz, and he has experience in the semifinals of slam. He also isn’t running into Rafael Nadal, like he did at Flushing Meadows.

Berrettini is on fire and showing no signs of slowing down–at least not when someone other than Djokovic is on the other side of the net.

Pick: Berrettini in 4

Ricky contributes to
 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.