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And so it begins…

Who reading this, even those who may not have affection for or affiliation with the game of tennis, could have failed to be mesmerised by the recent Raducanu journey, which concluded with her becoming the first ever qualifier to win one of the game’s primary sporting...
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Both favourite and underdog going for history

Non-Novak Djokovic supporters in the home Centre Court crowd will allow Italy to celebrate one major sporting triumph on Sunday.

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. Novak Djokovic

There is no question they would want Gareth Southgate’s England to defeat the footballers from the Bel Paese in the 2020 Euro final at Wembley and claim its first major international trophy in 55 years in the evening.

But those sports fans, it seems, would have no objection to Roman Matteo Berrettini upsetting the odds in the Wimbledon men’s final against five-time champion Djokovic and securing his country winning tennis’ most coveted prize for the first time in the afternoon.

Djokovic, a 19-time major winner, will chase history on a few fronts. The Serb world No.1 is attempting to equal Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal on the record number of men’s Slams won by an individual, seal the third quarter of a Grand Slam in a calendar year and keep on course for a Golden Slam in Olympic year.

But seventh-seed Berrettini, the first Italian to contest the decider, has momentum on grass as he bids to become the first player to seal a Queen’s-All England double since Boris Becker 36 years ago.

Moreover he is likely to have the majority of the support as the underdog – we Brits adore one of those as a general rule – while Djokovic could continue to struggle for love from the supporters alongside the respect he has gained for winning so many titles.

Matteo Berrettini has the support of Adrano Panatta, the last Italian to win major

AELTC/Joe Toth - Pool/Getty Images

And Berrettini will go in with the added support of fellow Roman Adriano Panatta, who won the French Open in 1976 to become the last Italian to win a Grand Slam.

Berrettini revealed he has been in touch with Panatta at this Wimbledon.

He said: “We are in contact. He texted me after I won by quarter-final against Felix (Auger Aliassime) and he told me that while you at Wimbledon you should go for it. He was the biggest name to believe in me when I was a kid. We practised at the same club and played doubles together. It was a nice experience. He has been a great advisor. “

Berrettini, naturally, is hoping to help complete a sporting win double for his nation on the day with the backing of Panatta and the rest of their country.

The 25-year-old, attempting to become only the third major winner from his country following Panatta and Nicola Pietrangeli, said: “I will tell them (Italians) to buy a nice TV if they don’t have already because I think it’s going to be a special Sunday for all of us. It’s something crazy to believe for us, obviously let’s say tennis, because it never happen. So it’s something that nobody expected – me in first place.

“Then for football, because we came from – I mean, we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, so after that the job that they did, how hard they worked, the effort that they put, I think they really deserve this finals.

“Obviously I’m going to think first about mine. I think the schedule is going to come first. Then probably, if I have the chance, I’m going to watch them.

“It would have felt great (to be in the final) even if I wasn’t the first Italian. First Slam finals. I don’t know. I’m just so, so happy for everything. My year started in a good way, with the finals in ATP Cup. Then I got injured again. I kind of saw those ghosts again of my body kind of struggling (in reference to a 2020 groin problem).

“Again, I came back stronger. I think I fully deserve to be here. I want to enjoy my first final I just appreciate what’s happening. So I’m very happy.”

Novak Djokovic wants to pocket the next step of his calendar grand slam

AELTC/Joe Toth - Pool/Getty Images

Djokovic hinted he might be fighting for the affections of the Centre Court crowd, but, as John McEnroe astutely observed while the Serb completed his last-four win over crowd favourite Denis Shapovalov, winning a championship is not a popularity contest.

Djokovic said: “I hope that I will have the stadium on my side. Having the crowd behind you, it’s a big difference. People like to see someone win who is an underdog or is not maybe expected to win, is not the favourite. Berrettini, his first time in a Grand Slam final, he’s kind of an underdog. But hopefully people can also recognise also the importance of this match for me, the history that is on the line.”

The favourite is motivated going into his 30th Grand Slam final – and seventh at Wimbledon – as he aims for a sixth title, the third in a row.

The 34-year-old said: “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.

“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.”



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