Patrick McEnroe’s keys to the Wimbledon men’s final: How Berrettini can compete with Djokovic

LONDON — Matteo Berrettini is playing in his first major final. Novak Djokovic is playing in his 30th. But don’t doubt the Italian’s place at the table at Wimbledon.

“I got to say: I didn’t pick Berrettini to get to the final but I’m not that surprised,” ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe said. “I think he’s obviously playing extremely well in the whole last year, particularly in Queen’s. So watching him as I have the last couple of matches, he’s by far been the best player in the bottom half of the draw so I don’t think there’s any doubt he deserves to be where he is … It is hard to imagine anyone other than Djokovic beating Berrettini the way he is playing.”

We spoke to McEnroe about what to watch for in Sunday’s men’s final (9 a.m.; ESPN and ESPN App) and what Berrettini needs to do to make history.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Berrettini must respond to the pressure

The first thing is how Berrettini handles his first major final. The first thing is how he handles the occasion because obviously Djokovic is going to have no problem with that. He has done it many times. So for that, Djokovic is a clear favorite, but if he comes out and plays his game, Berrettini, I think he has a shot.

As we saw in the semifinals, he has a huge serve. He’s taken care of his serve very comfortably — big forehand and what has been most impressive to me about his game is he has improved his return a lot. He’s got a lot of returns in play. He’s also using a lot more finesse and touch with the backhand slice and some short balls. So if you look at his whole package, he hits the ball bigger than Djokovic.

Now, Djokovic obviously moves a lot better and has a lot more variety to his overall game, so that is where he has the edge. Djokovic can come forward a lot better than Berrettini can. I definitely think that if Berrettini is comfortable and settles early into the occasion that he has got the game that can really bother Djokovic.

Djokovic’s big advantage: Ball movement

Djokovic is going to look to jump on Berrettini early because when you play someone who hasn’t been there — I remember a couple of years ago when he played Kevin Anderson in the final and he just took him apart in the first couple of sets. So in this situation, he’s going to try and use his experience — and how does he do that?

He can move the ball around well. He can use his slice, which he is using a lot more with his backhand. He is the best returner in the game. So he is going to try to make Berrettini play a lot more on his own serve than Berrettini has had to in the tournament, and he is going to try and make the points more physical. Lengthen the points, make it more about the movement on the court. So you will see him go down the line probably a lot more so he can get Berrettini on the run, get himself on the run. That’s where he has a huge advantage against him on this surface.

The serve matters

The serve is going to be very important. Berrettini’s serve, he’s had over 20 aces in four of his six wins. So whether he is going to be able to do that against Djokovic is going to be difficult because Djokovic is so nimble and so quick and is such a great returner. But clearly, the number to look for for me more than anything is how he does on his second serve points. He’s probably going to get his aces. It will be interesting to see is he going to get as many against Djokovic as he has. Plus-20, say. I think he had only one double fault in the semifinal, it was late in the last game of the match, it was his first double fault. So the other thing for him will be, will he go for more in his second serve knowing his opponent?

Can Djokovic be shaken?

I think Djokovic is mentally in a good place. The only way he can get rattled, I believe, is if Berrettini plays big and takes him. He could feel frustrated if Berrettini is playing a lot of quick points. But I don’t think the occasion is going to frustrate him. I don’t think it’s going to be anything about going for 20 [majors], going for another Wimbledon title, tying Nadal and Federer. I think that’s a huge part of his motivation so I don’t see him getting nervous by that.

I see him getting a little rattled if Berrettini plays his A-game, and then he could get frustrated by that and compound it but I don’t see the occasion bothering him. It’s going to have to come from his opponent, whereas his opponent could be more bothered by the occasion. He could get down a quick set if he comes out a little nervous and trying to find his bearings in the final.

Freshness shouldn’t be an issue

I think Djokovic does a pretty good job of worrying about what is in front of him. He hasn’t really been tested that much physically, and as we have seen, even this year, matches he has won at the Australian Open and then at the French Open, if he is going to be tested physically he is going to be ready for that. I think he’ll go in knowing that Berrettini has got the kind of game that can bother him so he can have that respect for his opponent.

Berrettini seems pretty fit and pretty strong. For the most part, his road has been pretty easy. A four-setter against [Felix] Auger-Aliassime, a four-setter [Friday], but he has always been ahead in his matches and he is strong like a bull, so I don’t see physically either player having any issues coming into it. They should both be relatively fresh.

Net play is worth watching

I’ll be interested to see if anyone comes to net a little bit more. We saw a bit more of that from Djokovic in the semifinal. I could see Djokovic trying to get in on Berrettini’s backhand a little more because that is his weaker side and the passing shot and I don’t think that little slice shot he hit against [Hubert] Hurkacz is going to work against Djokovic. So that’s the other thing: Neither player you think of as a net player — certainly during the tournament — but Djokovic has gotten more and more comfortable moving forward so I can certainly see that being a factor in the match.

So who wins?

I still think I’m going to stick with Djokovic, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Berrettini pulled the win. I think it will be a pretty close match. I can see Berrettini winning a set, maybe two.

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