And yet he keeps showing, time and time again, that it is unwise to doubt his supremacy at this time.
Seeded Djokovic has extended his current races to 20 straight wins at Wimbledon, dating back to 2018, and 20 in a row in all majors this season, working his way into trouble against a much younger and much less experienced opponent. . until eliminating number 10 Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 Friday night to reach the final at the All England Club.
Each set was tight and intense. Each seemed to be within Shapovalov’s reach. Until it was Djokovic’s house.
“I don’t think the score says enough about the performance and the game,” said Djokovic, who saved 5 of 5 break points in the second set and then 3 of 3 in the third.
Then, speaking of Shapovalov, a 22-year-old Canadian, Djokovic said: “We are definitely going to see him a lot in the future. “
And now, if he can beat another new enemy in these stages, Matteo Berrettini, in Sunday’s final, Djokovic will win a sixth championship at Wimbledon – third in a row – and, more importantly, a 20th Grand Slam title. , who would most bind rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by a man in tennis history.
And then there’s this: He’s already won the Australian Open in February and the French Open in June, so a triumph at Wimbledon would put him three-quarters of a calendar year’s Grand Slam, with just l ‘US Open remaining.
First of all. This will be Djokovic’s 30th major final, Berrettini’s first. Just as it was Djokovic’s 41st major semi-final, Shapovalov’s first.
Cries of “Vai!” “(Come on!),” Forza! “(Let’s go!) And even” Andiamo, amore mio! (Come on, sweetheart!) Rang earlier on center court, supporting Berrettini in his native language on the verge of becoming the first Italian Grand Slam men’s finalist in 45 years.
With booming serves offering 22 aces and powerful forehands helping to compile a total of 60 winners, No. 7 seed Berrettini used an 11-game streak to take a big lead, then held on to beat. No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in the first semi-final.
“Obviously, the job is not done yet. I want to get the trophy now that I’m here, ”said Berrettini, 25, who lost his only previous Slam semi-final at the 2019 US Open.“ But just, it’s a really amazing feeling. “
He is now on an 11-game winning streak on turf, including a title during the Queen’s Club tune up last month, when he became the first man since Boris Becker in 1985 to win the trophy on his debut. during this event. Becker continued to triumph at Wimbledon that year.
Friday’s result appeared to turn early against Hurkacz, never before a slam’s third round, but after victories over eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and No.2 Daniil Medvedev.
A key moment, oddly enough, came under 20 minutes, when Hurkacz was leading 3-2 and holding a break point. This was erased by Berrettini – no surprise here – by a 130mph service winner, punctuated by one of his many cries of “Si! “
From there, Hurkacz went from being the guy who scored the biggest win of his career – in straight sets in the quarterfinals against his idol, Federer – to the player who arrived in England after a six-game losing streak.
Berrettini (almost) could not miss. Hurkacz was (almost) unable to connect.
On arrival, Berrettini had 24 winners on his forehand alone, and only 18 unforced errors. Hurkacz totals? Only 27 winners – four forehand – and 26 unforced errors.
When Hurkacz first broke, the 24-year-old Pole sat down for the change that followed and, between bites of bananas, motioned for his American coach, Craig Boynton, to adjust the layout. seats in their guest box.
As if that was the problem.
Cheered from the stands by his girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic, who qualified for the quarter-finals this week, and his parents and brother – Mum captured her interview on the pitch with her cell phone – Berrettini was within two points of victory in the third set.
But Hurkacz prolonged the fight, before Berrettini asserted himself again.
Shapovalov continued to push Djokovic to the brink, but couldn’t get the job done.
Djokovic gave up his first set this fortnight to British teenager Jack Draper – and has won all 18 since.
When Djokovic and Shapovalov took control of the arena in the late afternoon, it was filled with high winds that rippled the players’ jerseys and were blanketed in dark clouds. The sun made an appearance in the third set, however.
Djokovic’s 6-0 head-to-head record on Friday did not bode well for a fair fight. But Shapovalov is a southpaw with a vibrant, sometimes violent swing, especially when it comes to his serves and one-handed backhand. There is hardly a hint of subtlety, not the slightest hint of caution, and he enjoys high risk, high reward shots.
The setback forced a mistake from Djokovic to close a 15-stroke rally that provided Shapovalov with a break and a 2-1 advantage. He brought that to 5-3 and was two points away from winning the set in the next game, but couldn’t come close.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Shapovalov faltered for the first time – spurred on by Djokovic’s tireless defense.
Djokovic broke there and then was better in the tiebreaker. Not that he was perfect. After all, he double faulted and gave up another point by throwing a backhand into the net.
But mostly playing it safe and letting Shapovalov make a mistake has worked very well. Shapovalov double faults to end the set. He did it again to break to hang out 6-5 in the second. And again in the game that left him behind 6-5 in the third.
At that point, Djokovic was knocking in the air and screaming, knowing that the end of the match and another final was near.