History was on the line for each of these gentlemen.
For Novak Djokovic, winning another Wimbledon would tie him with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for 20 grand slam titles. For Matteo Berrettini, in his debut grand slam final, winning would mean breaking a 45-year dry spell for Italy, and the first Italian to win at Wimbledon.
The mountain was high for Berrettini to climb, he trailed 0-2 in his head-to-head with Djokovic. And he’s never defeated a Top 10 player. But, his powerful serve would be a major challenge against Djokovic, one of the game’s best returners.
And his heavy forehand was a great matchup against the pace and precision of Novak’s backhand. The edge still went to Djokovic, with superior movement, net play, and experience on his side.
The beginning of the first set saw a few double faults from the World’s No. 1 and many wild forehands from the 25-year-old Italian. Most likely nerves. Movement looked spotty for the rocket-serving Roman, who came onto court with his groin taped.
The 8th game lasted nearly ten minutes, going back and forth between deuce and ad many times. Berrettini held serve to stay in the first set after a return error into the net from Djokovic, instilling new life into him.
The following game saw Novak give Berrettini a lifeline, by dumping a forehand into the net, making it Ad-Berrettini. A fantastic rally ensued after a second-serve from Djokovic, ending with a Berrettini forehand to the back corner, making it 5-4.
The serving of Berrettini and the returning of Djokovic were world class. But the massive serve off the Italian’s racket was too much for the best server in the game. Leveling the set at 5-5.
An easy service game for Novak, taking only a couple of minutes, put the set at 6-5. There were long rallies where the young Italian came out on top, painting the lines with his forehand and had some help from Djokovic’s unforced errors, sending the first set into a tiebreak.
The tiebreak was a battle in miniature to what the first set was. Unexpected unforced errors by Djokovic, incredible serving from Berrettini. But Novak’s serve improved here, helping him out of any hole that Berrettini’s serve put him in.
Berrettini took the tiebreaker and the first set.
Djokovic took a quick 4-0 lead in the second, the 4th game only taking a minute to secure.
Berrettini’s energy level dropped after the fight it took to dig himself out of the 2-5 hole in the first. Berrettini fought in the 5th game, getting on the scoreboard with his big serve and big forehand. Djokovic had two set points at 5-3, but Berrettini’s energy picked up and his serve saved him. A near perfect service game for Djokovic followed, and ended the set.
One set all.
Berrettini opened the third with an easy service hold with his massive forehand getting him some easy winners.
The Italian’s movement improved and created a lot of opportunities for himself by moving the ball around and placing his serve so well that it created a lot of errors off of Djokovic’s racket.
A misfired backhand slice from Berrettini, a shot that let him down a few times, ended the game. 2-1, Djokovic.
Djokovic began to serve and volley more during this set, which proved successful for him. Berrettini followed suit and won his next service game by doing the very same. 3-2, Djokovic.
Berrettini placed his shots deep, nearly hitting the baseline where the court has been chewed up from two weeks of matchplay. This caused the ball to take some awkward bounces which tripped up Djokovic a few times.
The men held serve comfortably during this set, but ultimately it was Djokovic who prevailed. Two sets to one.
The fourth set was the most exciting: amazing rallies that had the fans giving standing ovations and brought smiles to each player’s face. Berrettini’s energy seemed to return. Djovokic had steadily cleaned up his error count since the first set.
At 3-3, 30-all, the crowd was chanting “MA-TE-O!” But, the World No. 1 thrives when the crowd is behind his opponent, and he wins the game with a rare double fault from Berrettini.
Championship point came at 5-3, 40-30. Berretini served, came to net and saved match point. 40-40. Djokovic came to net to secure another match point.
Berrettini saved it with a huge forehand down the line. A forehand into the net gives Djokovic match point No. 3. And after one of the longer rallies of the entire match, Berrettini puts another backhand slice into the net.
Djokovic wins, securing his third grand slam trophy of 2021, sixth Wimbledon title, and 20th grand slam title.
Berrettini served unbelievably and out-aced Djokovic 16 to 5. His forehand helped him win tons of points, racking up more winners than Djokovic. What let him down was his inability to pass with his backhand when Djokovic came to net.
Nerves were probably what most affected his play, and that confidence will come with time and experience during the big moments of his young career.
Djokovic’s returns were outstanding. Sometimes, he was nearly kneeling and using his racket as a shield to get the ball back in play. He started off the match with 10 unforced errors but, like a great champion does, adjusted and made less errors during each of the four sets.
The serve and volley strategy he implemented during the second set and continued through the rest of the match, won him a high percentage of net points.
This Wimbledon Gentlemen’s final was a battle. Berrettini put up a fight, but in the end it was Djokovic’s ability to mix up his playing style, use his superior returning skills to keep the Italian hitting one more ball that he would have liked.