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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini reaches the 1st Grand Slam final at Wimbledon

LONDON – shout of “Vai!” (Go!), “Forza!” (Let’s go!) And even “Andiamo, amore mio!” (Let’s go, my love!) Called through Center Court, supporting Matteo Berrettini in his native language on his way to becoming Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam finalist in 45 years.

With thriving servings delivering 22 aces and powerful forehands helping to gather a total of 60 winners, the No. 7-seeded Berrettini used an 11-game race to get a big lead and then held on to beat No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4 at Wimbledon on Friday.

On Sunday, Berrettini will face either No. 1 Novak Djokovic, a 19-time major champion, or No. 10 Denis Shapovalov, a first-time Slam semifinalist.

Berrettini has created a quite sporting Sunday in London for Italy. After playing in the Wimbledon final that afternoon ̵

1; the first for a man from his country in a title match in any major since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 French Open – Italy will face England at Wembley Stadium in the final of the European Football Championship that night.

Berrettini, 25, lost his only previous major semifinal at the 2019 US Open.

He is now on an 11-match winning streak on grass courts, including a title at the Queen’s Club tuneup last month, when he became the first man since Boris Becker in 1985 to win the trophy in his debut at this event. Becker went on to win at Wimbledon that year.

The result on Friday seemed to turn early against Hurkacz, never before past the third round of a Slam, but came victories over eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

A key moment, oddly enough, came less than 20 minutes inside when Hurkacz was ahead 3-2 and held a break point. It was deleted by Berrettini – no surprise here – by a service winner at 130 mph, punctured by one of his many shouts of “Si!”

Then Hurkacz went from the guy who came out of the biggest win of his career – in equal sets in the quarter-final against his idol, Federer – back to the player who arrived in England on a losing streak in six games.

More than 50 minutes passed before Berrettini would drop another game, a stretch that gave him the first two sets and a 1-0 lead in the third.

He could hardly miss. And Hurkacz could barely connect.

In the first set, for example, 6-foot-5, Berrettini with barrel chest compiled 21 winners – 11 from his hand – and only eight unforced errors. Hurkacz, on the other hand, did not provide a single wind of foundation during this period.

At the end, Berrettini had 24 winners from his hand alone and only 18 unforced errors. Hurkacz’s totals? Fewer than half as many winners, 27 – only four on forehand – and 26 unforced errors.

Hurkacz, so calm and united against Federer two days earlier, was a picture of anxiety, bending forward or rolling his eyes after some misses.

When Hurkacz was broken for the first time that cloudy afternoon, the 24-year-old from Poland sat down for the subsequent conversion and, between bites of a banana, asked his American coach, Craig Boynton, to adjust the seating in their guest box, wanting some people closer together and others more scattered.

As if that was the problem.

Hurkacz also owns a formidable serving, but even though he never seemed to be able to handle his enemies, Berrettini got good readings and wanted to block the return just to get a point started.

It worked well and eased the way to six breaks for Berrettini, who saved both such chances for Hurkacz.

Encouraged from the stands by his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic, who reached the quarter-finals this week, Berrettini was two points from winning on four occasions in the third set, all the while Hurkacz earned – twice at 5-4 (both by deuce ), twice at 6-5 (at 30-all and at deuce).

But Hurkacz came through these spots and then extended the competition by grabbing the tiebreaker, where he took a 4-0 lead as Berrettini netted what should have been a light salvo in advance.

Hurkacz managed to regroup a bit by leaving the locker room after the second set, and Berrettini went off the field after the third. When the game resumed, Berrettini broke to start the fourth and was soon back on track. Hurkacz saved Berrettini’s original match point, 5-3, with a service winner at 134 mph.

Berrettini and his supporters only had to wait five minutes for another opportunity to close it, which he did.

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