With a win over Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, Novak Djokovic will equal Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 Grand Slam victories. The Serbian star was stretched to the limits by Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals, but he prevailed in three hard-fought sets. The straight-set triumph may make it appear that the match was simple, but it was anything but. The top seed saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced, which proved crucial in the end. Djokovic handled the pressure better in the stressful circumstances, and his reward is a Sunday final against Berrettini.
“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. “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.”
Djokovic’s ability to perform under pressure is one of his best attributes. It played a crucial role in the Serbian winning the semifinal against Shapovalov. “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 spoke about the importance of having the crowd on your side on Centre Court. But, Djokovic insisted that irrespective of the fans’ support, he will still 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. 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.”