NOVAK Djokovic (picture) admits he will have to overcome the majority of 15,000 fans on Centre Court as well as Matteo Berrettini if he is to capture a sixth Wimbledon and 20th Grand Slam title on Sunday.
The world number one will be playing in his seventh final at the All England Club and 30th at the majors.
By contrast, Berrettini is in his maiden Slam final and bidding to be the first Italian man to claim a major title since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open.
“Every player hopes in big matches, coming into big stadiums, that he’s going to have a majority of the crowd behind him,” said Djokovic.
“Having the crowd behind you, against you, it’s a big difference.
“Berrettini, his first time in a Grand Slam final, he’s kind of an underdog. People also like to see someone win who is an underdog or is not maybe expected to win, is not the favourite to win.”
Djokovic reached his latest Wimbledon final on Friday with a 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-5 win over Denis Shapovalov.
He had to dig deep, saving 10 of 11 break points in a semi-final in which he was outplayed for large parts of the first two sets.
Most of the Centre Court crowd were behind the Canadian, even more so when he walked off in floods of tears.
It’s a situation that has become depressingly familiar to Djokovic as he stands one win away from equalling Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles.
When he defeated Federer in the epic 2019 final, Djokovic revealed that when the fans were chanting for the Swiss legend, he had to imagine they were shouting his name instead.
When Sunday comes, the 34-year-old hopes the Centre Court crowd will appreciate what he is trying to achieve.
Victory will leave him requiring just a fourth US Open title in September to become only the third man in history and first since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
“Hopefully people can also recognise the importance of this match for me, the history that is on the line,” said Djokovic.
“I’m prepared for anything really that is going to happen in terms of the crowd support on Sunday. I’ve had many different experiences throughout my career. I just need to focus on myself and what I need to do.”
Djokovic was full of praise for 22-year-old Shapovalov and backed him as a Slam winner in the future.
“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 after his seventh win in seven matches against the Canadian.
“In important moments I think I probably held my nerves better than he did.
“I told him after the match he should keep working, keep believing, because with a game like that he’s going to get a lot more opportunities in the future without a doubt.”