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Novak Djokovic praises ‘red-hot’ Wimbledon final opponent Matteo Berrettini as he chases Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal record


Wimbledon favourite Novak Djokovic is closing in on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (Picture: Getty)

Novak Djokovic has praised his ‘red-hot’ Wimbledon final opponent Matteo Berrettini and says the showpiece event at the All England Club will be a ‘great battle’.

World number one and defending champion Djokovic, bidding to move level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles, beat Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-5 in his semi-final clash on Friday.

Five-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic will face Berrettini in Sunday’s final after the big-serving Italian beat Hubert Hurkacz in four sets.

Berrettini’s stock continues to grow in the tennis landscape; he reached the US Open semi-finals in 2019, the French Open quarter-finals earlier this year and won Queen’s ahead of Wimbledon 2021.

Djokovic, 34, is wary of ‘red-hot’ Berrettini and says the Wimbledon final is ‘anybody’s game’.

‘Matteo has been one of the best players in the world in the last 12 months,’ the Serbian legend said after knocking out Shapovalov.

‘He’s had some big wins against Dominic Thiem in Australia, got to the semi-finals of the US Open a few years ago. He’s working his way up.

Queen’s champion Matteo Berrettini has booked his place in the Wimbledon final (Picture: Reuters)

‘With big weapons with his serve and the forehand, he can play well – which he has proven – on any surface.

‘We played against each other in the quarters of Roland Garros, which was a very tight and very tough four-setter.

‘And obviously grass favours him even more, favours his game. If he serves big, as he has done throughout the entire tournament, it’s tough to break him, it’s tough to get into the rhythm, to find a good positioning to return, make him play.

‘But I believe in my return. I think my return has served me very well throughout my career. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of those serves back and wait for my chances. I will also have to serve efficiently myself.

‘But it’s a final, it’s really anybody’s game. 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.’

Winning Wimbledon would see Djokovic clinch a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and he admits joining his long-time rivals Federer and Nadal would be ‘special’.

‘Well, it would mean everything,’ he added. ‘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.

‘But anything is possible in the finals. Obviously experience is on my side. But Berrettini has been winning a lot of matches on grass courts this year, winning Queen’s. So 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.’

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