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Berrettini has Always Been the Biggest Threat to Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2021

Matteo Berrettini will face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the second straight Slam in the Wimbledon final. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

By Ricky Dimon

The era of Big 3 dominance appears to be over on the ATP Tour. Now we are in a period marked by Novak Djokovic alone winning Grand Slams left and right, and doing so at the expense of a younger generation.

Dominic Thiem came up short against Djokovic in the 2020 Australian Open final. Daniil Medvedev did the same earlier this season. At the recent French Open it was Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the title match from the other side of the draw. Tsitsipas actually took the first two sets against Djokovic, but the 22-year-old still couldn’t get over the hurdle that is the world No. 1.

Now Matteo Berrettini gets the next shot in Sunday’s Wimbledon final.

Even though Berrettini is ranked No. 9 and has never been higher than No. 8, he has always been the biggest threat to Djokovic at the All-England Club. Part of that has to do with Rafael Nadal being absent, Roger Federer coming back from injury at 39 years old, and guys like Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Andrey Rublev less accomplished on grass as they are on other surfaces.

But a lot of it has to do with Berrettini, himself. The 25-year-old is 11-0 on the lawn this summer, having preceded his arrival at Wimbledon with a title at Queen’s Club. He has only picked up momentum in SW19, where his run to the final has come at the expense of Guido Pella, Botic Van de Zandschulp, Aljaz Bedene, Ilya Ivashka, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Hubert Hurkacz. A couple of statistics are even more telling as Berrettini heads into Sunday’s title tilt. He has fired 101 aces in the tournament; nobody else has hit more than 65 (Denis Shapovalov). He has been broken a total of just five times. Aside from dropping serve on three occasions against Auger-Aliassime, the No. 7 seed has been broken only twice in his five other matches combined.

Novak Djokovic rides a streak of 20 straight major and Wimbledon wins into the final. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL
Needless to say, this is Berrettini’s best-ever slam result. His only previous semifinal appearance came at the 2019 U.S. Open, when he was much more of an underdog.

“I would say that it’s different, but at the same time it’s great,” he said earlier this week, comparing the two performances. “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 [was] playing good, fighting like I’m doing now, but it was more unexpected.

“Now, stepping in 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. I had more matches on my shoulders. Everything that I am achieving, it’s great, but it’s not something that I didn’t expect.”

Now it’s Djokovic who expects a tough test on Sunday, as he should.

“Anything is possible in the finals,” Djokovic admitted. “Obviously experience is on my side. But Berrettini has been winning a lot of matches on grass courts this year, winning Queen’s. He’s in great form. He’s serving big; playing big. So it’s going to be a very tough match I think for both of us. But I’m looking forward to a great battle…. But I expect him to be [at a] really high level because that’s what he’s been delivering in (the) last couple weeks.”

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.