London, Jul 9 (EFE).- Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-5 on Friday to advance to his seventh Wimbledon final and move within one win of equaling the Grand Slam record held by fellow tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
He will square off in Sunday’s final against big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini, who notched a convincing 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 victory over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
Djokovic started slowly in the day’s second men’s semifinal against an opponent who came out swinging on the grass and nearly captured the opening set.
The 12th-ranked Shapovalov broke the Serbian in the third game of the match and had a golden opportunity to serve out the set in the 10th game, but the talented 22-year-old Canadian started feeling the pressure at that juncture and gave the break back with crucial ground stroke errors, including botching a routine forehand at 30-30.
The world No. 1 then continued to win key points by targeting the Canadian’s backhand and wrapped up the opener on his opponent’s double fault.
Shapovalov squandered five break-point chances early in the second set, including netting a key forehand in the fourth game and miscuing a pair of backhands in the sixth game.
He would rue those missed opportunities when Djokovic broke in the 11th game due to another double fault by Shapovalov at the worst possible time and then used accurate serving and his highly underrated net skills to secure a set-winning service hold.
To the Canadian’s credit, he continued to battle against nearly impossible odds in the third set.
But he once again failed to convert break-point opportunities at the start of the set and then dropped serve shortly before a potential tiebreaker by sending a forehand over the baseline.
Djokovic lifted his arms in the air in relief a few points later after striking an ace on match point, ending a contest in which he struggled much more than usual on serve but saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced.
“I don’t think that the scoreline says enough about the performance and about the match. He was serving for the first set and he was probably the better player for most of the second set,” the 19-time Grand Slam champion said in an on-court interview.
“He had many chances and I would like to give him a big round of applause for everything that he has done today and these two weeks.”
The 34-year-old Djokovic, a five-time Wimbledon champion who is trying to equal Federer’s and Nadal’s record haul of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, faces another dangerous opponent in Sunday’s final in Berrettini who struck 22 aces and 60 winners and committed only 18 unforced errors in his semifinal win over Hurkacz.
Although the Pole came into that semifinal contest full of confidence after knocking out Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and then Federer, winner of a record eight Wimbledon men’s singles titles, the Italian quickly stamped his authority on the match.
The world No. 9 notched five service breaks in the first two sets against Hurkacz, who had only been broken once in his five previous sets prior to Friday.
Berrettini then showcased his tremendous serving power over the final two sets, striking 14 aces and not facing a single break point.
Although he lost the third set in a tiebreaker, an early service break in the fourth set cleared his path to a convincing four-set victory.
“I have no words, really, just thanks. I need a couple of hours to understand what happened,” Berrettini said in an on-court interview after reaching his first Grand Slam championship match and becoming the first Italian – man or woman – to reach a Wimbledon singles final. “I played a great match. I enjoyed the crowd, my family and whole team are there. I think I never dreamed about this, because it was too much for a dream.”
Djokovic holds a 2-0 career edge over the 25-year-old Berrettini, mostly recently defeating him in a tight four-set match last month on clay in the French Open quarterfinals. EFE