Tennis

Matteo Berrettini beats Hubert Hurkacz in four sets to reach the Wimbledon final

Let’s hope not all Italians are quite so devastating when they tread the grass of London. Where their football team has led, Matteo Berrettini followed on Friday by taking his place in the final of Wimbledon.

It could be a pretty decent Sunday for that bunch, all things considered. Or maybe it won’t. But from the tennis side of a twin assault, the green, white and red flag will be in the hands of a monstrously strong guy and a fine talent.

The backhand might be a little moderate, a touch functional, but goodness, if Berrettini’s serve doesn’t get you, his forehand will. Two out of three ain’t bad and nor is he.

Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian ever to reach the final of Wimbledon

Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian ever to reach the final of Wimbledon

The No 7 seed's serve was impeccable throughout the match as he defeated Hubert Hurkacz

The No 7 seed’s serve was impeccable throughout the match as he defeated Hubert Hurkacz

David Beckham was one of several famous faces in the royal box that watched Berrettini's win

David Beckham was one of several famous faces in the royal box that watched Berrettini’s win

His dismantling of Hubert Hurkacz here bordered on a speed-gun drill at times. Power can be used as a reductive word in this sport, but there will always be something spellbinding about a player who can strip the yellow off a ball. Novak Djokovic might go on to win the marbles, who knows, but you can bank on him having some degree of whiplash and sore palms by the end of it.

None of which underplays the guile in Berrettini’s game, because you don’t take the title at Queen’s and follow it with six wins on these courts without knowing how to construct a point. 

But primarily we should consider the fireworks display that the 25-year-old staged against Hurkacz – 22 aces, 60 winners, a serve of 137mph, two break points conceded, no breaks permitted. Across one stretch between 2-3 down in the first and 1-0 up in the third, he won 11 straight games.

The seventh seed didn’t quite put the match to bed there and then, because he lost that third set on a tiebreak, but before long Hurkacz was tucked in and having his temperature taken.

His forehand was also a key weapon for him as he flew out the blocks to take the first two sets

His forehand was also a key weapon for him as he flew out the blocks to take the first two sets

The Pole’s take on what he faced: ‘I mean, every single service game, he was serving bombs. I basically had zero chances.’

That from Wednesday’s conqueror of Roger Federer.

And from the man who beat the man? ‘I never dreamt about this because it was too much, even for a dream,’ said Berrettini, who is the tip of the swelling iceberg that is Italian men’s tennis.

No other chap from his country has reached the final of the singles at Wimbledon, and none has done so at any Slam since Adriano Panatta won the French Open in 1976. At 6ft 5ins and built like a Roman statue, Berrettini was always well suited for the kicking in of doors. Or blowing them off, if you prefer.

On the double-header, in which his final will precede the Wembley business between his country and England, he added: ‘I tell people at home to buy a nice TV because I think it’s going to be a special Sunday.

Hurkacz grew into the match and produced this amazing slice winner in the third set

Hurkacz grew into the match and produced this amazing slice winner in the third set

The Polish star showed real character to win a tiebreaker to claim the third set and stay alive

The Polish star showed real character to win a tiebreaker to claim the third set and stay alive

‘It’s something nobody expected – me in the first place. Then for football, we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, so after that, with the job that they did I think they really deserve being in this final.’

Berrettini’s climb to prominence has been predicted with increasing regularity over the past couple of years. He was a good junior without being prodigious, but he was really moving through the gears in 2019 when he got to the semi-finals at the US Open. 

The pandemic interrupted his progress, but already 2021 has seen him reach the fourth round at the Australian Open, the quarters at the French and now he has this final, along with that tour-level title at Queen’s and another in Belgrade.

Good on Hurkacz for providing some sparring on his best run at a Slam, but he was struggling in this one from early on.

But Berrettini got an early break in the decisive set and got over the line to reach the final

But Berrettini got an early break in the decisive set and got over the line to reach the final

The 24-year-old survived a flurry of break points at 1-1, but he had no escape a short while later at 3-3 when successive forehands into the net handed Berrettini the initiative. A second break at 5-3 via a shanked forehand concluded the set.

If there was a subtle turning point in all that, one that occurred before Hurkacz lost his service games, it came at 3-2 up when he had his only decent look at Berrettini’s serve. He worked his way to a break point, but a service winner saw to that. It’s not for nothing that he has won 151 out of 158 service games on grass this summer.

It was 1-0 in the third before Hurkacz won his next game, and yet in the blur of a 6-0 set he only made seven unforced errors. Seven is decent but Berrettini made one. It was less a choke and more of a strangling.

Hurkacz recovered to take the third 7-4 in the tiebreak, but Berrettini broke in the first game of the fourth and what chance did Hurkacz have of breaking back? He didn’t get so much as a single opening and now Italy have two finals to contemplate.


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