Matteo Berrettini put on a stunning display of power hitting to bludgeon his way past the gutsy Hubert Hurkacz and reach his first Wimbledon final.
The Italian beat his Polish opponent – who had never previously made it past the third round of a grand slam – 6-3 6-0 6-7 6-4 in a match that lasted more than two and a half hours.
Both Berrrettini and Hurkacz came into Friday’s semifinal hoping to be the first men from their respective countries to reach the final at the All England Club.
It was Berrettini – appearing in his second grand slam semifinal – that handled the occasion the better of the two players.
The match looked as though it was going to be a whitewash when Berrettini won the second set to love in little over 20 minutes, but Hurkacz rallied well in the third to turn the match into a real contest.
In the end, it wasn’t enough as Berrettini stepped up his level again to clinch the fourth set and book his place in the first grand slam final of his career.
“Thank you, I have no words,” Berrettini said after the match. “Really … I need a couple of hours to understand what happened. I played a great match, I enjoyed the crowd, my family and whole team are there. I think I never dreamed about this because it was too much for a dream. I am so happy.
“After the third set I was feeling I deserved to win it, but lost it. I said: ‘It doesn’t matter,’ I was feeling the stronger player and that’s what I said to myself and eventually it paid off.
“So far it is the best tennis day of my life, but hopefully Sunday will be even better. I feel kind of chills but I am doing it, so I have to believe it.”
The first set started evenly and there was certainly no sign of one player’s domination that was to come.
Hurkacz managed to hold magnificently from 0-40 down in only his second service game and, at the time, it felt like it could be a significant moment.
However, Hurkacz was broken two service games later, with Berrettini punctuating the break with a stunning forehand on the run while chasing down his opponent’s smash, surely one of the shots of the tournament so far.
Berrettini won all remaining games in the set and Hurkacz, incredibly, wouldn’t win another for almost an hour.
Whether it was due to Berrettini stepping it up a level or Hurkacz struggling under the pressure of the occasion – most likely a combination of the two – the second set was over in the blink of an eye.
When Berrettini rushed to a 5-0 lead, it meant he had won nine consecutive games and this semifinal was in danger of getting away from Hurkacz faster that one of Berrettini’s crunching serves.
The crowd tried desperately to lift Hurkacz, cheering wildly whenever he won a point. He attempted to lift himself, too, gently clenching his fist whenever he showed brief flashes of the skill that had brought him to this stage of the tournament.
Despite that, he was unable to win even a single game in the second set as Berrettini stormed to a 2-0 lead.
The odds were now stacked heavily against Hurkacz, who had only once come back from two sets down to win a best of five set match in his career.
Fortunately for the crowd on Center Court, the third set was considerably more competitive than the second. When Hurkacz won his first service game to level the third at 1-1 it broke a run of 11 straight games for Berrettini and drew a huge roar of appreciation from the capacity 15,000 crowd.
Huge credit must go to Hurkacz for his improvement in the third set – certainly better players have wilted in the past when faced with such a scoreboard – and by the time it reached a tie break, you sensed the momentum had all of sudden swung towards the Pole.
Berrettini began to show the first signs of frustrations when Hurkacz hit an overhead winner after a weak lob attempt, extending his hand in bewilderment towards his box.
Hurkacz opened up a 4-0 lead in the tie break and comfortably saw it out 7-3, all the while suddenly playing his best tennis of the contest so far.
However, that momentum didn’t carry over into the fourth set as Berrettini – who took at tactical bathroom break at the end of the third – broke Hurkacz in his opening service game.
From there, Hurkacz never looked like getting level.
As he walked out to serve for the match, Berrettini would have drawn strength from the knowledge that he had won an incredible 150 of his 157 service games on grass so far this year. The 158th would surely be the nerviest yet, not least after Berrettini hit his first double fault of the match on the game’s first point.
However, it proved to be nothing more than a minor blip as the Italian found his aim again to finally get past his gritty opponent.
The Italian will now play either Novak Djokovic or Denis Shapovalov, who play later on Friday, in Sunday’s showpiece final.