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Shapovalov: ‘Now I Know Exactly What I'm Capable Of… And What To Improve'

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2021

Denis Shapovalov went toe-to-toe with the best player in the world for nearly three hours on Friday at Wimbledon, but he walked off Centre Court with tears in his eyes after Novak Djokovic edged through their semi-final battle in straight sets. 

The Canadian had been growing in confidence throughout the fortnight, and he battled past two-time champion Andy Murray as well as eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and 25th seed Karen Khachanov to clinch his best Grand Slam result to date.

But up against World No. 1 Djokovic, who is going for his third consecutive Wimbledon crown, he came up just short in the decisive moments. He let 10 of his 11 break opportunities slip by, and although he served well, he was broken once toward the tail end of each set as Djokovic powered to a 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5 victory.

“I think what hurt so much this time was just that I felt like the game is there and it’s possible to go and play for the trophy,” Shapovalov said afterwards. “It’s a feeling I’ve never had before, so that’s why it just hurt so much. I felt like I was outplaying Novak in parts of the match. If you’re outplaying Novak, you can beat anyone. 

“It just hurt a lot…  It’s been a lot of pressure, a lot of mental fatigue. Like, it all kind of spilled out on the court before I could control myself.”

For Shapovalov, the sting of victory was still tempered by the many positives – after all, the 10th seed was contesting his first Grand Slam semi-final at 22 years old. He backed up a career-best grass-court swing that saw him reach his first tour-level semi-final on his favourite surface at The Queen’s Club in the build up to Wimbledon. And he will return to his career-high ranking of World No. 10 as a result when the new FedEx ATP Rankings are published on Monday.

But most importantly, the lefty shotmaker has proven – to the world, and to himself – that he has what it takes to challenge the players at the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“It’s almost good to have a little bit of a taste, because it just makes me want it that much more going into the next Slams and into the future,” he said. “Now I know exactly what I’m capable of and where my game can be at. Also the things that I can improve, too, to beat Novak next time or go one step further.”

Proving it on the court is one thing. But it also helps to hear it from the World No. 1 himself. Shapovalov revealed that after seeing his emotions after the match, Djokovic came up to him in the locker room and offered him words of encouragement.

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“He just told me he knows how difficult it is for me right now,” Shapovalov said. “He told me that everything will come. For me, it’s big coming from someone like him. He doesn’t have to do this. It just shows the type of person he is. It’s just really nice for someone like me to hear from him.

“I have tremendous respect for him. He’s definitely for sure one of the greatest players of all time. It’s awesome to hear those words from him.”

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Djokovic On Potentially Tying Grand Slam Record: ‘It Would Mean Everything’

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2021

History awaits Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, when he will try to tie Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. And the World No. 1 left no doubt Friday evening following his semi-final victory that he is excited for the opportunity.

“It would mean everything. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing. I imagined myself being in a position to fight for another Grand Slam trophy prior to coming to London. I put myself in a very good position,” said Djokovic, who will play Matteo Berrettini for the trophy. “Anything is possible in the final. 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.”

Novak Djokovic

The Serbian superstar had to claw through a tough battle against Denis Shapovalov in the semi-finals. Djokovic emerged victorious in straight sets, but each set was a nail-biter against the free-swinging Canadian.

The top seed saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced, which proved critical. The difference in the match was Djokovic’s performance under pressure.

“I don’t think you’re born with it. I think it comes with time, with experience, with mental and physical work obviously,” Djokovic said of his mental fortitude in key moments. “The more matches you play and the more times you’re in these similar situations, the more confident or more comfortable you feel every next time you get to face these particular circumstances where you’re a break point down or playing in [the] final stages [of a] Grand Slam against [your] top rivals.

“I think that experience definitely favours me every single time. Next time I get to walk on the court, [I] know that I’ve been through everything that I could possibly go through as a tennis player. I know my strengths. I know what I’m capable of. I rely on that.”

The 34-year-old has long discussed his love affair with Wimbledon and how as a child he dreamt of competing in and winning the tournament. Now he has another opportunity to play on Centre Court with history on the line. Whether or not he has the crowd’s support, he will be focused on the task at hand.

“Every player hopes in big matches, coming into big stadiums, that he’s going to have a majority of the crowd behind him. Having the crowd behind you, against you, it’s a big difference,” Djokovic said. “Berrettini, [this being] his first time in a Grand Slam final, he’s kind of an underdog there. People also like to see someone win who is an underdog or is not maybe expected to win, is not the favourite to win.

“But hopefully people can also recognise the importance of this match for me, the history that is on the line. I’m prepared for anything really that is going to happen in terms of the crowd support on Sunday. I’ve had many different experiences throughout my career. I just need to focus on myself and what I need to do.”

Djokovic knows that Berrettini brings plenty of firepower to the court, and that the Italian will be hungry for his first major triumph. But with everything at stake, the Serbian will be ready.

“It’s [the] final. It’s really anybody’s game,” Djokovic said. “He’s arguably the guy who has been in the best form on grass courts this year, winning Queen’s. He’s red hot. It’s going to be a great battle.”

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Berrettini On Italy's Super Sunday: 'I Want To Get The Trophy Now'

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2021

When Matteo Berrettini held aloft the solid silver cinch Championships trophy three weeks ago, BBC television presenter Sue Barker pointed out that he was the first debutant at The Queen’s Club to lift the trophy since Boris Becker in 1985. The Italian could only smile.

“Maybe he stepped into Wimbledon and he thought about making the final,” said Berrettini on Friday. “I didn’t think like that. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t think I [was] going to do it, because that is how I am. I took every step really careful and slowly. I guess it was the right thing to do.”

Today, Berrettini is riding an 11-match winning streak on grass and is one victory away from following in the footsteps of the 17-year-old German wunderkind, who went on to lift the Wimbledon title for the first time. “Obviously the job is not done yet,” said Berrettini. “I want to get the trophy now that I’m here. But it’s just [a] really unbelievable feeling.”

On Friday, the 25-year-old became the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 Roland Garros crown, following a 6-3, 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-4 over Polish 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

“I’m just so happy for everything,” said Berrettini, who has been in regular contact with Panatta. “My year started in a good way, [by helping Italy reach] the ATP Cup final. Then I got injured again. I kind of saw those ghosts again of my body kind of struggling. Again, I came back stronger. I think I fully deserve to be here. I want to enjoy [it] like I did today.”

Berrettini is up to third position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin for one of eight singles spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour from 14-21 November. Since returning from a hernia/groin injury in mid-April, Berrettini has compiled a 24-4 match record, including the Serbia Open title in Belgrade (d. Karatsev) and a runner-up finish in his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Zverev).

The charismatic World No. 9 is now hoping that it will be a ‘Super Sunday’ for Italy when he competes in the Wimbledon final and the football team challenges England for the European Championship title.

“Hopefully, whoever’s going to win, they’re going to support me — I hope,” said Berrettini, looking ahead to playing World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. My first final in Wimbledon. It’s just crazy to think about it.

“It’s [a] great day, [a] great sports day. I’m really happy that, together with football now, we are one of the biggest sports in Italy.”

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Berrettini, who with his brother, Jacopo, always dreamed of playing in a big final, has got his wish.

“When we were kids, we were going holiday, we were always bringing our racquets,” said Berrettini. “We played so many times, even without the ball, just pretending we were playing in our living room [in] a great final. We were pretending to be players that now I’m playing against.

“I couldn’t, unfortunately, for bubble reasons, meet them. I saw them from far away. My brother, I never saw him like that. He couldn’t believe it. That’s where we’re coming from. That’s my family. That’s our passion… Tennis is in my family. My grandparents are still playing. It’s something we have in DNA, and it makes me feel so good to have them here.”

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Hurkacz: 'Matteo Played An Unbelievable Match'

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2021

In tennis, an opponent is sometimes simply too good on the day. According to Hubert Hurkacz, who fell short at Wimbledon against Matteo Berrettini in his first Grand Slam semi-final, that was the case on Friday.

“Matteo played [an] unbelievable match today. Huge congrats to him. Every single service game, he was serving bombs. I didn’t have many chances, basically zero,” Hurkacz said. “Huge congrats for him that he kept such a high level throughout the whole four sets. He played really well.”

The 24-year-old beat second seed Daniil Medvedev and eight-time champion Roger Federer earlier in the tournament, and in the second half of the match against Berrettini he found some of his best tennis again to put pressure on the Italian. But the seventh seed had too much firepower for the Pole to deal with.

“He was putting a lot of pressure on me. My first serve really wasn’t helping me, which usually [it] does and [it] gets me out of trouble. I was struggling with that,” Hurkacz said. “Plus he was putting a lot of pressure on me and he was playing really amazing without [making] any unforced errors. I wasn’t playing great at that time, but he was putting a lot of pressure.”

Berrettini crushed 60 winners to just 18 unforced errors, an incredible ratio, especially with a spot in the Wimbledon final on the line. Hurkacz had won 81 per cent of his first-serve points en route to the semi-finals at the All England Club. But on Friday, he only managed to claim 68 per cent of points behind his first delivery.

“I was trying to stay competitive,” Hurkacz said. “And fight for every single point, especially at the beginning of the third set to try to make a comeback.”

Hurkacz did well to win the third set in a tie-break and add tension to the clash. But Berrettini raised his level again to make his first major championship match, in which he will play World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or 10th seed Denis Shapovalov.

“If he continues to play like this, he has a really big chance in the final,” Hurkacz said.

The Miami champion leaves London without a trophy, but with an important experience to look back on in the future. Entering the tournament, he was on a six-match losing streak and had never advanced to the second week at a Grand Slam. Now the three-time ATP Tour titlist knows he is capable of making a deep run at this level.

“Obviously playing in front of this amazing crowd, this was such a pleasure,” Hurkacz said. “I enjoyed to play, especially playing [in the] semi-finals, playing a super big match. So [I am] super happy to [have] experienced that.”

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Djokovic Beats Shapovalov, On Verge Of Record-Tying 20th Grand Slam

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2021

Novak Djokovic reached his seventh Wimbledon final on Friday and moved within one victory of claiming a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title.

The World No. 1 defeated 10th seed Denis Shapovalov 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5 to set a championship showdown against seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, who eliminated 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the day. Djokovic rallied from a break down in the first set and withstood a baseline barrage from Shapovalov to triumph after two hours and 44 minutes.

“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,” Djokovic said in his 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 Serbian superstar has not lost a set since his first set of the tournament against home favourite Jack Draper. He joins Roger Federer as the only two men to reach 30 Grand Slam finals (Federer has made 31). A win on Sunday will give the top seed his third major trophy of the season and move him to within a US Open crown of completing the Calendar-Year Grad Slam.

Most Grand Slam Finals (all-time)

 Player  Slam Finals
 1. Roger Federer  31
 2. Novak Djokovic  30
 3. Rafael Nadal  28
 4. Ivan Lendl  19 
 5. Pete Sampras  18

For much of his clash against Shapovalov — a first-time major semi-finalist — the action was not on Djokovic’s racquet. But the 34-year-old was outstanding under pressure, saving 10 of the 11 break points he faced, and that was the difference.

“In [the] important moments, I think I probably held my nerves better than he did and just made him play an extra shot, made him [make] an unforced error,” Djokovic said. “It’s tough to play Denis, particularly on grass and quicker surfaces with the lefty serve that he’s got. He can hit any spot. I think he’s one of the best servers on the tour, without a doubt. When he’s on, when he’s feeling that serve, it’s a weapon on any surface against anyone.” 

The 19-time Grand Slam champion has now won six consecutive semi-finals at the All England Club, and is now 30-11 in major semi-finals overall, including 16 of his past 17.

Break Points Saved – Djokovic vs. Shapovalov

 Player  Break Points Saved
 Novak Djokovic  10/11
 Denis Shapovalov  7/10

Shapovalov did not make it easy for the five-time Wimbledon winner, though. The dynamic lefty came out firing, going after his forehand and backhand without hesitation. The 10th seed broke Djokovic in his second return game of the match behind a baseline onslaught, and he got into an impressive serving rhythm to move into closing position in the opener.

But when the Canadian served for the first set at 5-4, he began to show cracks in his game. At 30/30, Shapovalov missed an easy forehand from the service line into a wide-open court. Although that miss did not immediately allow Djokovic back on serve, he missed a backhand long three points later to relinquish his advantage.

In the ensuing tie-break, Djokovic shook his head in disappointment after a poor drop shot. But Shapovalov hit one on the next point that did not reach the net, and he was never able to fully recover. The top seed dared the lefty to beat him with aggressive play, and the 22-year-old was unable to do so, hitting a double fault to end the set.

The Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus did well to shake that off in the second set, in which he continued going after his shots to put Djokovic under pressure. But the Serbian bent and never broke, escaping a 0/40 deficit at 1-2. And in crunch time at the end of the set, Djokovic played sensational defence to force Shapovalov to go for even more, and the World No. 12 double-faulted well long to give away the break.

After closing out the second set, Djokovic was unable to immediately storm through the final set. But at 5-5, it was once again the Canadian who slipped. The 10th seed missed a forehand long on break point, eliciting a primal roar from Djokovic, who served out the match to love in the next game with his seventh ace.

Djokovic will play another powerful foe on Sunday. He leads Berrettini 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series — the Serbian lost just three games against him at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and needed four sets to beat the Italian in this year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals.

Berrettini, however, is playing the best tennis of his career, and is now 11-0 this season on grass. Djokovic owns a 20-match tour-level winning streak on grass.

“There is no holding back once you step out on the court, particularly in the later stages of an event that I always dreamt of winning. The dream keeps going,” Djokovic said. “I am trying to take out the maximum of my own abilities every single match and see what happens. Giving up is never an option.”

Did You Know?
This is the first time Djokovic has advanced to the Wimbledon final with the loss of just one set. The Serbian lost two sets en route to the championship match at the All England Club in 2013, 2015 and 2019.

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