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After time off, Nadal back in action with Washington debut

After time off, Nadal back in action with Washington debut

Rafael Nadal is back after missing Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics with a previously undisclosed foot problemBy HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis WriterAugust 1, 2021, 7:04 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Rafael Nadal is back after missing Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics with a previously undisclosed foot problem, back after not lifting a racket for three weeks.Nadal will return to competition Wednesday night at the Citi Open, making his debut at the hard-court tuneup tournament for the U.S. Open.And there is no doubt he’s the main attraction, of course — from the sign front-and-center atop the main stadium that shows a yelling Nadal above the words, “This is tennis,” to the crowds attending his open practice sessions this weekend.Play begins Monday at an event whose field includes young Americans Sebastian Korda, Riley Opelka, Taylor Fritz, Jenson Brooksby and Maryland native Frances Tiafoe, along with Nick Kyrgios, Jannik Sinner and Felix Auger-Aliassime.After losing to Novak Djokovic on June 11 in the semifinals of the French Open, where Nadal is a 13-time champion, the 35-year-old Spaniard decided to take a break.Or, as Nadal put it during a video conference with reporters Sunday, “My body decided.”“If I had to choose, I will never miss Wimbledon and Olympics. But I was not able to compete in these events after the clay-court season. I had some issues in my foot, so I had to stop playing tennis for around 20 days, not touching a racket for 20 days,” he said. “I started slowly, practicing half an hour, then a little bit more. So I went through the whole process.”Does he regret taking all of that time away from the tour, particularly sitting out the fortnight at the All England Club, where Djokovic pulled even with Nadal and Roger Federer by winning a 20th Grand Slam singles title?“That’s the right thing to do,” Nadal said. “The decision, I think, is the right one.”Coming to the nation’s capital for the first time allows Nadal to start his preparation for the U.S. Open a week earlier than he usually does.“It’s just unbelievable that he came here to D.C.,” Tiafoe said. “Having a player of his caliber here is pretty legendary.”The year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins main-draw play in New York on Aug. 30.Nadal has won the championship at Flushing Meadows four times, including when he most recently entered the tournament, in 2019.He sat the U.S. Open out a year ago, when it was played with zero spectators amid the pandemic.When Nadal returns there in less than a month, he will be trying to break a tie with Federer and Djokovic by becoming the first man to get to 21 major trophies.The work toward that goal has commenced.“I don’t know how long it will take to recover everything, but the only thing I can say is I’m here just to try my best in every single moment,” Nadal said. “I hope the last couple of days of practices keep helping me to be competitive enough for the first round.”———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Roger Federer says he's out of Olympics after knee 'setback'

Roger Federer says he's out of Olympics after knee 'setback'

Roger Federer says he won’t participate in the Tokyo Olympics after having a setback with his kneeBy HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis WriterJuly 13, 2021, 5:11 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleRoger Federer will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, writing on social media Tuesday that he “experienced a setback” with his knee during the grass-court season.Federer had said before Wimbledon that he would make a decision about going to the Summer Games after the Grand Slam tournament ended.The 39-year-old from Switzerland lost in the quarterfinals at the All England Club last week to Hubert Hurkacz.Federer had two operations on his right knee in 2020 and went more than a full year between matches. He returned to Grand Slam action at the French Open and then pulled out of that tournament after three victories, saying he wanted to be rested and ready for the grass circuit — especially Wimbledon.On Tuesday, he said in a post on Twitter that because of the setback, he has “accepted that I must withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games. I am greatly disappointed, as it has been an honor and highlight of my career each time I have represented Switzerland.”Federer won a gold medal alongside Stan Wawrinka in doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver in singles at the 2012 London Olympics, losing to Britain’s Andy Murray in the final at the All England Club.Federer sat out the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games because of problems with his left knee.“I have already begun rehabilitation in the hopes of returning to the tour later this summer,” wrote Federer, who turns 40 on Aug. 8.The U.S. Open, the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, is scheduled to begin Aug. 30 in New York.Federer joins a growing list of tennis stars who are not going to Tokyo, where COVID-19 cases have been rising as the July 23 opening ceremony approaches.Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios are among the players who will not be competing for medals.Novak Djokovic, who tied Federer and Nadal for the men’s record by winning his 20th major championship at Wimbledon on Sunday, said after the final that he was 50-50 on whether to go to the Games.On the eve of Wimbledon’s start, Federer was asked where things stood for him on Tokyo.“My feeling is I would like to go to the Olympics. I would like to play as many tournaments as possible. But I think we decided now, let’s just get through Wimbledon, sit down as a team, and then decide where we go from there,” he said then. “I wish I could tell you more. In previous years, it was definitely easier. At the moment, things are not as simple as in the past. With age, you have to be more selective. You can’t play it all.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

20 Slams! Djokovic wins Wimbledon to tie Federer, Nadal

20 Slams! Djokovic wins Wimbledon to tie Federer, Nadal

WIMBLEDON, England — The Wimbledon final was locked up at a set apiece after nearly 2 1/2 hours, and Novak Djokovic’s bid for a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title was at a critical juncture, when he faced two break points while thousands in the full-capacity crowd at Centre Court chanted his opponent’s first name.Bothered, perhaps, by the challenge he was facing between the lines Sunday, and, perhaps, by the support being thrown behind Matteo Berrettini, and, perhaps, by the weight of the milestone he was pursuing, Djokovic shrugged all of that off and steeled himself, as he’s done so many times at so many moments on so many stages.On each of the next two points, Djokovic, known for his baseline supremacy, charged forward. On each, Berrettini’s passing attempt found the net. After the second, Djokovic stared into the stands and pointed to his ear, then waved his racket. He got what he wanted; a chorus of his nickname broke out: “No-le! No-le!” Two points later, when he grabbed the game with a 118 mph ace, Djokovic put his racket behind an ear, heard more noise, nodded and smiled.An hour later, the match was finished — Djokovic won 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 — and so, too, was his stated desire to equal the total of major championships collected by his biggest rivals, Roger Federer (who reached 20 in 2018) and Rafael Nadal (who did it last year). No other male tennis player has more than 14.Djokovic, of course, wants more.“I consider myself best, and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history,” said Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia who is ranked No. 1 and has spent more weeks in that top spot than any other man. “But whether I’m the greatest of all time or not, I leave that debate to other people.”It is a popular topic, certainly. And every member of the so-called Big Three has his supporters. This season might tilt the balance in Djokovic’s favor in the minds of those yet to be convinced.Already the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the first three major tournaments in a year, Djokovic will take aim at a true calendar Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 30. Only two men — Don Budge in the 1930s and Laver twice in the 1960s — have gone 4-for-4.“I’m going to definitely give it a shot,” Djokovic told the Centre Court crowd during the trophy presentation. “I’m in a great form and obviously playing well. … So let’s keep it going.”He earned a third consecutive championship at the All England Club and sixth overall. Those go alongside nine at the Australian Open, three at the U.S. Open and two at the French Open.“I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends. Legends of our sport. They are the two most important players that I ever faced in my career,” Djokovic said. “They are, I think, the reason that I am where I am today. They’ve helped me realize what I need to do in order to improve, to get stronger mentally, physically, tactically.”Federer and Nadal both tweeted their congratulations.This was Djokovic’s 30th major final — among men, only Federer has played more, 31 — and the first for Berrettini, a 25-year-old from Italy who was seeded No. 7.“Hopefully,” Berrettini said, “it’s not going be my last one.”It was a big sporting day in London for his country: Italy’s soccer team faced England at Wembley Stadium in the European Championship final at night.With Marija Cicak officiating, the first female chair umpire for a men’s final at a tournament that began in 1877, play began as the sun made a rare appearance during the fortnight, the sky visible in between the clouds.The opening game featured signs of edginess from both, but especially Djokovic, whose pair of double-faults contributed to the half-dozen combined unforced errors. He faced a break point but staved it off.“Definitely,” Djokovic acknowledged, “felt slightly more nervous than I usually feel.”The 6-foot-5, barrel-chested Berrettini’s powerful serves sent line judges contorting to get their head out of harm’s way. Djokovic occasionally took cover himself, crouching and raising his racket as if it were a shield to block back serves aimed at his body.Not many opponents manage to return serves at 137 mph and end up winning the point, but Djokovic did that at least twice. And the big forehands Berrettini drives past most other players kept coming back off Djokovic’s racket.“I didn’t play badly because I didn’t feel well,” Berrettini said. “He made me play badly.”That’s what Djokovic does: He forces foes to work so hard to win every point, let alone a game, a set, a match.Indeed, this one could have been over much sooner: Djokovic led 4-1 in the first set, 4-0 in the second and 3-1 in the third. But in the first, he faltered, wasting a set point at 5-2, getting broken when he served for it at 5-3, then dropping four of the tiebreaker’s last five points.When Berrettini closed it out with a 138 mph ace, he shouted — but said later he couldn’t hear his own roar because of the how loud many of the 15,000 spectators were.But Djokovic is nothing if not a fighter. He blunted Berrettini’s best efforts and won the fans over, too. When it was over, Djokovic dropped to his back on the turf, arms and legs splayed, showered by cheers. Moments later, he rose, threw his head back, spread his arms and basked in the joint appreciation of his accomplishment.As Berrettini put it: “He’s writing the history of this sport, so he deserves all the credit.”It was an entertaining final, with some magical points. On one, Berrettini conjured up a ‘tweener lob that Djokovic tracked down with his own-back-to-the-court flick that wound up in the net. On another, Djokovic slid into a keep-the-point-going defensive backhand and, after Berrettini replied with a drop shot, sprinted forward for a winner. Djokovic raised his index finger — as if to remind everyone, “I’m No. 1!” — and Berrettini flipped his racket end over end, caught it and smiled.What more could he do?Not much anyone can do against Djokovic, it seems.He has won eight of the past 12 majors — all since turning 30. And for all of the questions about when the younger generation would step forward, Djokovic is singlehandedly holding off the kids.In this year’s three majors, he is 21-0, with victories in finals over Daniil Medvedev, 25, in Australia, Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22, in France, and now Berrettini, 25.On Sunday, Djokovic made merely 21 unforced errors, while accumulating 31 winners.Djokovic’s returns are as good as anyone’s, ever. His two-handed backhand is a constant threat. His ability to anticipate and reach shots is remarkable. And he does whatever it takes: Djokovic won 34 of 48 points when he went to the net, 7 of 9 when he serve-and-volleyed.What sets him apart above all is a quality stats can’t trace: “The ability to cope with pressure,” he called it.When the tension and heart rate ratchet up, Djokovic is either impervious to that sort of thing — or plays as if he is.It’s the experience. The grit and guts. The talent and hard work.This has been a year of dominance by Djokovic, on top of a decade of success.“The last 10 years has been an incredible journey,” he said, “that is not stopping here.”———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Pliskova proud of effort to make Wimbledon final competitive

Pliskova proud of effort to make Wimbledon final competitive

Karolina Pliskova is able to laugh about it nowBy HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis WriterJuly 10, 2021, 6:34 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWIMBLEDON, England — It’s never a good thing to lose the first 14 points of a Grand Slam final. At least Karolina Pliskova could laugh and smile about it afterward.“Definitely horrible start,” she said.Fair.Somehow, though, Pliskova regained her composure and recalibrated her shots enough to make a match of it and push No. 1-ranked Ash Barty to a third set before losing 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 at Wimbledon on Saturday.Pliskova’s record in major finals dropped to 0-2 — she also came out on the short end at the 2016 U.S. Open — while Barty is now 2-0 after adding the championship at the All England Club to the one she collected at the 2019 French Open.“Of course,” Pliskova acknowledged, “some nerves were there.”It already was 3-0, love-30 for Barty before Pliskova managed to grab a single point. Soon enough, it was 4-0.But Pliskova, a 29-year-old from the Czech Republic who has been ranked No. 1, spoke about being proud of her performance — because of the way she was able to hang in there and make things more interesting.“You always have to believe that things can go your way, things can get better, which of course was not easy. Definitely not. It was a tough moment because I thought, like, I can just play much better than I did,” Pliskova said about the way things began. “I thought: If I can get, like, a game just to start, or a point to start — because actually I didn’t make a point the first three games — then it can be like much better.”Here is what else was going through her mind in the early going: In the final of the clay-court tournament in Rome against 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek in May, Pliskova lost by a score of 6-0, 6-0.Tapping her temple with her left index finger Saturday, she said: “I thought, ‘No, this is not be possible. This cannot happen again.’”It did not. Because she started doing everything a bit better.She had more success with her greatest asset, her serve. Her groundstrokes were suddenly smoother and on-target.“Yeah, I just found a way,” Pliskova said. “I think that’s the most important after match like this, that I always find a way — no matter how you feel, no matter how the opponent is playing.”Pliskova is firmly in that group of female tennis players thought of as the best without a major trophy.And she emphasized Saturday that she wants one and will strive for one and thinks she is only getting closer to one.“This,” Pliskova said, “is going to be, always, my goal for now.”Barty praised Pliskova, whom she referred to by her nickname of Kaja, as “an exceptional competitor” and said she is underestimated in that regard.“She’s been a Top 10 player for a number of weeks now, one of the most consistent on the tour over the last, I don’t know how many years — five or 10 years. She’s always been there, always been knocking on the door, always giving herself the opportunity,” Barty said. “I know that Grand Slam title for her is not far away.”———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Start the Barty! Australian wins Wimbledon for 2nd major

Start the Barty! Australian wins Wimbledon for 2nd major

WIMBLEDON, England — Everything came so easily for Ash Barty at the start of the Wimbledon final. Hard to believe one player would grab the first 14 points of a major championship match.Surely, it couldn’t stay that one-sided, right? Of course not.Still, Barty used that perfect start and a strong-enough finish to get the job done, holding off Karolina Pliskova’s comeback bid to win 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 at the All England Club on Saturday for her second Grand Slam title.“It took me a long time to verbalize the fact that I wanted to dare to dream it and say I wanted to win this incredible tournament. … I didn’t sleep a lot last night. I was thinking of all the ‘What-ifs,’” the No. 1-ranked Barty said. “But I think when I was coming out on this court, I felt at home, in a way.”She adds this trophy to the one she won at the French Open in 2019.Barty is the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980. Barty was a teenager when they first met and she considers Goolagong Cawley an inspiration and a mentor.“Evonne is a very special person in my life,” said Barty, whose outfit was a tribute to the dress Goolagong Cawley wore when she won the tournament for the first time, 50 years ago. “I think she has been iconic in paving a way for young indigenous youth to believe in their dreams and to chase their dreams. She’s done exactly that for me as well.”Barty, 25, was the Wimbledon junior champion a decade ago, then left the tennis tour for nearly two years in 2014 because of burnout. She played professional cricket back home, then eventually returned to her other sport.Good call.She was at her best at the beginning of each set against the eighth-seeded Pliskova, a 29-year-old from the Czech Republic with a big serve.Pliskova dropped to 0-2 in major finals; she also was runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open.“Horrible start,” said Pliskova, a former No. 1. “That’s why I’m more, like, proud about the way (I found) a way back in that match.”She trailed by a set and a break in the second, and Barty served for the victory at 6-5.But Barty sailed consecutive forehands long to get broken, then ceded the tiebreaker with a double-fault.“She dug deep,” Barty said, “and found a way to claw herself back into the match.”In the first Wimbledon women’s final to go three sets since 2012, Barty went up 3-0 in the decider and never relented. It also was the first since 1977 between two participants who never had been that far at the All England Club.With an audience that included Prince William and his wife, Kate, and actor Tom Cruise, the match was played under a cloud-filled sky at Centre Court. Because of the threat of showers, Barty and Pliskova shared a warmup session under the closed roof at No. 1 Court earlier in the day.They smiled and chatted during the coin toss before the final, but once things got serious, Barty didn’t mess around.Right from the get-go, there was not a hint of uneasiness or uncertainty. Her strokes were confident. Her demeanor, too. During the match-opening run that put her up 3-0, love-30 and, after Pliskova finally won a couple of points, 4-0 after 11 minutes, Barty showed off her varied skills.She returned Pliskova’s speedy serves — the ones that produced a tournament-high 54 aces entering Saturday — without any trouble. She lobbed Pliskova, who at 6-foot-1 is 8 inches taller than the 5-foot-5 Barty. She hit winners with heavy topspin forehands and set up others with sliced backhands. She threw in an ace of her own, and even compiled more than Pliskova, 7-6.“She didn’t really miss much. She played everything super deep,” Pliskova said. “I think it was tough for me to really play my game in that moment.”The key stat probably was this: Barty won 22 of 31 points that lasted nine strokes or more.As balls flew past Pliskova, and the murmuring in the full-capacity stands reached a crescendo, she watched with little more than a blank stare. She fiddled with her racket strings as if she’d rather be anywhere else and, indeed, said afterward: “I didn’t feel like I (wanted) to be there.”Pliskova’s coach, Sascha Bajin, who previously worked with Naomi Osaka and was Serena Williams’ hitting partner, observed the scene with arms crossed.Pliskova finally got the measure of her strokes in the second set. That could have shaken Barty. Except here’s the thing: She speaks clearly about never letting anything get her too down, including the hip injury that knocked her out of the French Open last month and prevented her from her usual preparation for Wimbledon.Actually, it wasn’t until after Saturday’s win that Barty’s team told her that hip was much worse than she knew and should have required two months for a full recovery.And so, with her typical grit, Barty managed to get back to the steadier version of herself down the stretch. When she got a second chance to serve it out, Barty didn’t flinch, even when she had to stare down a break point.When one last backhand miss from Pliskova ended it, Barty crouched at the baseline and covered her face with her arm.“Being able to reset at the start of the third was really important, just for me to continue to turn up each and every point,” said Barty, who climbed into the stands to hug her coach, Craig Tyzzer, and others. “That’s all I was really focusing on, just trying to do the best I could every given point, regardless of what the scoreline was.”———Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Wimbledon final: Djokovic eyes 20th Slam, Berrettini his 1st

Wimbledon final: Djokovic eyes 20th Slam, Berrettini his 1st

WIMBLEDON, England — The man standing between Novak Djokovic and a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title, Matteo Berrettini, remembers being wowed by Wimbledon when he played in the junior event as a teenager.“For me, it was just absurd. I asked myself, ‘Who knows if one day I’ll return and play in the main tournament, even just in qualifying? I have no idea.’ And now I’m in the final,” he said, then laughed at the thought of it all.“So it’s all a bit strange,” continued the barrel-chested, big-hitting Berrettini, now 25. “But what’s beautiful … is that I’m much more aware of what I can do now. I know I can do this, because I’m here.”That he is. On Sunday at the All England Club, the No. 1-seeded Djokovic’s 30th major final will be No. 7 seed Berrettini’s first — and the first for any man from Italy since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 French Open. (It’ll also be the first men’s final at Wimbledon with a female chair umpire; Marija Cicak of Croatia got the assignment.)“My hope for Sunday is to try to go on the court with my head held high, play my game and see what happens. I don’t want to think that it’s already a win just to be there, that I can be satisfied with that, because that’s not what I’m made of. I always want more,” Berrettini said after beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in Friday’s semifinals. “But I have to be proud of what I’m doing, because it’s not a given and it’s not easy.”The key to the title match could be Berrettini’s massive serves (to the tune of 101 aces and 95 of 100 holds in the tournament) against Djokovic’s best-in-the-business returns (he gets nearly everything back and has won 29% of opponents’ service games).It also could come down to how Berrettini handles the occasion.Djokovic recalled what it felt like to participate in a Slam final for the first time. He was 20 and lost to Roger Federer in three tight sets, including two tiebreakers, at the 2007 U.S. Open.“I was just so thrilled to be in the finals,” Djokovic said. “I was close. I had a good match against Roger, but I just probably did not, maybe, believe enough, I guess, in the victory at certain moments when the scoreline was close.”Self-confidence is not an issue these days for Djokovic. Nor should it be for the 34-year-old from Serbia.If Berrettini feels good about himself after running his current winning streak to 11 matches, all on grass courts, including a title at the Queen’s Club tuneup last month — the first man since Boris Becker in 1985 to take the trophy in his debut appearance there — imagine how Djokovic sees himself at the moment.The numbers, and the dominance, are truly staggering.He’s won his past 18 sets, every one since dropping his first of the fortnight.He’s won his last 20 matches at Wimbledon, dating to the start of the 2018 tournament.He’s won his last 20 matches in Grand Slam action, dating to the start of this season, with titles at the Australian Open in February on hard courts and at the French Open in June on red clay (where he beat Berrettini in the quarterfinals).If Djokovic adds another title on Wimbledon’s grass Sunday, that will put him three-fourths of the way to a calendar-year Grand Slam, something only two men have done, most recently Rod Laver in 1969.Imagine the hype — and pressure — heading to New York, where the U.S. Open begins Aug. 30.Then there’s the more immediate “history that is on the line,” to use Djokovic’s phrase after he defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals: the chance to pull even with Big Three rivals Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Slam trophies earned by a man.Djokovic could put what would be a sixth championship — and third in a row — at the All England Club alongside his nine at Melbourne Park, three at Flushing Meadows and two at Roland Garros.And it would give him eight of the past 12 majors.“The biggest challenge and the biggest task is always how to be present and how to stay in the moment regardless of the possibilities, the hypotheticals, and various options that are out there,” Djokovic said two days before Wimbledon began. “There is always something on the line, I feel like, for me — probably Roger and Rafa, as well — when it comes to the tennis history in the last couple of years.”———Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Back in Wimbledon final, Djokovic to face Italy's Berrettini

Back in Wimbledon final, Djokovic to face Italy's Berrettini

WIMBLEDON, England — The victories keep adding up for Novak Djokovic: 20 in a row at Wimbledon since the start of the 2018 tournament, 20 in a row in all Grand Slam matches since the start of this season.Get both streaks up to 21 on Sunday by beating Matteo Berrettini in the final at the All England Club, and Djokovic will tie rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a 20th major championship, the most for a man in tennis history.“It would mean everything,” the No. 1-ranked Djokovic said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing.”He worked his way in and out of trouble against a much younger, much-less-experienced opponent Friday until eliminating No. 10 Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals at Centre Court.Each set was tight and intense. Each appeared to be within Shapovalov’s grasp — until it was in Djokovic’s.“He was serving for first set. He was better for most of the second set; had a lot of opportunities and just didn’t manage to close it out when he needed to,” said Djokovic, who at 34 is 12 years older than Shapovalov. “In important moments, I think I probably held my nerves better than he did and just (made) him play an extra shot, (made) him do an unforced error.”Djokovic made just 15 unforced errors, Shapovalov 36. The other key stats: Djokovic saved 5 of 5 break points in the second set, then 3 of 3 in the third.“What hurt so much this time was just that I felt like the game is there and it’s possible to go and play for the trophy,” said Shapovalov, who walked off in tears after falling to 0-7 against Djokovic. “It’s a feeling I’ve never had before, so that’s why it just hurt so much. I felt like I was outplaying Novak in parts of the match. If you’re outplaying Novak, you can beat anyone.”So true. Now another new-to-these-stages foe, No. 7 seed Berrettini, will give it a shot.Cries of “Vai!” (Go!), “Forza!” (Let’s go!) and even “Andiamo, amore mio!” (Let’s go, my love!) rang through the All England Club’s main stadium earlier, supporting Berrettini in his native tongue on his way to becoming Italy’s first Grand Slam male finalist in 45 years.With booming serves delivering 22 aces, and powerful forehands helping compile a total of 60 winners, Berrettini used an 11-game run to grab a big lead and held on to beat No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4.Djokovic is trying to collect a sixth championship at Wimbledon — and third straight — to go along with nine from the Australian Open, three from the U.S. Open and two from the French Open.And then there’s this: After collecting trophies on the hard courts of Melbourne Park in February, and the red clay of Roland Garros in June — defeating Berrettini in the quarterfinals there — Djokovic seeks a triumph on the grass of the All England Club to get three-quarters of the way to a calendar-year Grand Slam, with only the U.S. Open remaining.No man has pulled off that three-title stretch within one year — let alone all four — since Rod Laver won the Grand Slam in 1969.This will be Djokovic’s 30th major final, Berrettini’s first. Much as it was Djokovic’s 41st major semifinal, Shapovalov’s first.“Obviously, the job is not done yet,” said the 25-year-old Berrettini, who lost his only previous Slam semifinal, at the 2019 U.S. Open. “I want to get the trophy now that I’m here.”He owns an 11-match winning streak on grass courts, including the 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 that event.“Matteo played (an) unbelievable match,” said Hurkacz, who arrived at Wimbledon on a six-match losing streak but beat Federer and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev to reach his first Slam semifinal. “I didn’t have many chances, basically. Probably zero.”When he got broken for the first time, the 24-year-old from Poland sat for the ensuing changeover and, between bites of a banana, motioned to his American coach, Craig Boynton, to adjust the seating arrangements in their guest box. As if that were the issue.Cheered from the stands by his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic, who made it to the quarterfinals this week, and his parents and brother — Mom captured his on-court interview with her cellphone — Berrettini was two points from winning in the third set.But Hurkacz extended the contest to an extra set, before Berrettini asserted himself again.A lefty with a vibrant, sometimes violent, swing, including when it comes to his one-handed backhand, Shapovalov kept pushing Djokovic to the brink, but couldn’t quite get the job done.That backhand forced a Djokovic error to conclude a 15-stroke exchange that provided Shapovalov with a break and a 2-1 edge. He stretched that to 5-3 and was two points from taking the set in the next game, but couldn’t get closer.Serving for the set at 5-4, Shapovalov faltered — pushed by Djokovic’s indefatigable defense.Djokovic broke, then was better in the tiebreaker. Not perfect, but better.Mostly playing it safe and letting Shapovalov err worked just fine. Shapovalov double-faulted to end that set. He did so again to get broken to trail 6-5 in the second. And again in the game that left him behind 6-5 in the third.By then, Djokovic was punching the air and shouting, knowing the match’s end, and another final, was near. ———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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