It wasn’t much of leap, but I’m one of the many who did take Novak Djokovic to meet Matteo Berrettini at the start for the Wimbledon title. So here we are with Djokovic on the cusp of history and the Italian 25-year-old in his very first Grand Slam final.
Yesterday, Djokovic didn’t play great but did what he had to do to get past Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian just couldn’t bring his best in the biggest moments. And that’s exactly where Novak has been so tough. The 22-year-old finished 1/11 on break chances and that’s what Novak will do to you.
In the first semifinal, Berrettini got on a mid-first set run and overwhelmed Hubert Hurkacz for a 4-set win, his 11th straight victory. He finished with 22 aces and another match in which he didn’t drop serve.
So both guys come in fresh and ready for battle, and what a battle it should be.
Novak Djokovic v Matteo Berrettini
I doubt many, if anyone, is picking Berrettini here. But I give him a decent chance. In his last two matches, Djokovic has looked a little off and I’m starting to think this is going to catch up to him, if not tomorrow then at some point in New York. He is 34 and while he seems unbeatable, he will lose. It’s going to happen.
In Paris, Djokovic dropped the first two sets to Lorenzo Musetti and did it again in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Even Berrettini played him really tough in the quarters.
Then at Wimbledon, he dropped the very first set of his title defense to Jack Draper but was dominant until the Marton Fucsovics and Shapovalov matches. Yet when you look at the scoreboard, Djokovic’s won 16 straight sets at Wimbledon and 20 straight matches in Slams. So while it may not look pretty, he’s doing something right!
So too is Berrettini. The big bomber who was born in Rome is riding the Italian wave in London where his national soccer team plays later Sunday night against England for the Euro Cup title.
Berrettini won Queen’s and has maintained that momentum at Wimbledon, running his streak to 11. But he hasn’t faced anyone of a Slam-winning caliber. A past-his-prime Andy Murray, Alex De Minaur and Cameron Norrie in Queen’s and this week Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz have been his biggest obstacles. There are some good wins in there, but based on some quick checking, none of them are in the Top 10 or even Top 15.
That said, any double digit streak at any level will give a guy a heap of confidence, and Berrettini has that to go along with his huge serve and forehand.
Djokovic, of course, has one of the best returns in the business and I fully expect him to make use of that to blunt the Berrettini serve. I also expect him to attack the backhand and use that drop shot to bring the big guy forward.
Berrettini will probably happily take a few tiebreakers and maybe he can get lucky. But he also isn’t much of a net player. He prefers to play off the ground from the baseline and that goes right into the Djokovic strength. All Novak has to do is get to the Berrettini backhand and he should be in control from there.
Most importantly, though, Djokovic will have to keep Berrettini on his heels with his serving. Djokovic needs to get a good percentage of first serves in, then dictate with the forehand (go right to the Berrettini backhand).
I think eventually, the Djokovic pressure will wear Berrettini down. That should open things up for the World No. 1.
Novak’s never lost to Berrettini (only two meetings, and this is on the Italian’s best surface) and in fact, he’s the last guy to beat him. I think Berrettini puts up a decent fight, maybe sneaks a break or a breaker for a set, but Djokovic is too resilient. 20-20-20 here we come!
The Pick: Djokovic in 4
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