By Sudipto Ganguly
(Reuters) - Hours after becoming the first Italian to reach the final at Wimbledon on Friday, Matteo Berrettini was yet to get a grip on his emotions.
But the seventh seed controlled his nerves expertly when and where it mattered - on court against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz.
The 25-year-old had to avert a spirited fightback from his opponent in the third set to book his ticket for Sunday's final though he said he never doubted his chances.
"Things are all over the place," Berrettini told reporters after his 6-3 6-0 6-7(3) 6-4 win. "At the same time I think I handled the situation pretty well.
"I stepped on court, I was feeling confident. I knew that I could win the match. I think I played my best match so far. So I'm really happy for my performance.
"Especially after the third set, everything was kind of - I felt I could win that set, also win the match, but didn't happen. I said to myself, You're playing better than him, so keep going like this and you're going to win."
He did play an astonishing level in the first two sets, winning 11 straight games against a player who had defeated eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in straight sets in his last match.
Berrettini said tennis was in his genes and he was overjoyed to have his family root for him from the Centre Court stands during Friday's match.
"It means everything. Not just my parents, my brother, one of my best friends," he said. "I started playing tennis with them... with my brother, we still practise together. He's still playing.
"When we were kids, we were going on holiday, we were always bringing our racquets. We played so many times, even without the ball, just pretending we were playing in our living room a great final. We were pretending to be players that now I'm playing against.
"That's my family. That's our passion, I guess. Tennis is in my family. Also my grandparents are still playing. It's something we have in DNA, and it makes me feel so good to have them here."
Friday's win made Berrettini the first Italian man to reach a major final since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 French Open.
Berrettini said Panatta texted him after his quarter-final win against Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime.
"We are in contact. Sometimes he texts me," Berrettini said. "He was one of the first big names for us, probably the biggest one, that believed in me when I was a kid.
"I remember we played together a doubles in the club where I used to practise. It was such a nice experience. Just a great adviser also ... what he texted me, he told me, 'now that you're here, go for it'. That's what I'm trying to do."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Christian Radnedge)