Madrid: Berdych d. Del Potro
Berdych is one of the few players who hasn’t been unremittingly negative about the controversial court surface this week, looking right at home in crushing Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils and Fernando Verdasco before stopping del Potro’s 10-match winning streak cold today. Del Potro made the better start to this entertaining display of power tennis, breaking Berdych to take a 2-1 lead, but he never quite recovered the full-out aggression that paid off so well in those opening games. With del Potro serving for the set at 5-4, it was Berdych who stepped up to the attack, breaking the Argentine to love as he increasingly struggled to find his footing at the back of the court. An error in the first point of the tie break gave Berdych the mini-break as del Potro lost his focus, disputing the correct mark in the clay with umpire Mohamed El Jennati. After a four-minute pause during which a spectator required medical attention, it was Berdych’s turn to lose focus, pegged back from 5-1 to 5-5 after del Potro pulled off a delicate chip at the feet of the Czech as he charged the net, but a tame backhand error left del Potro smacking a ball into the court in frustration and Berdych sealed the set with the one-two punch of big serve and forehand winner he excels at.
Berdych was again the more aggressive player as a still-frustrated del Potro served to open the second set, pouncing on the short ball to earn break point then taking it when he finally pulled off a backhand return down the line on del Potro’s second serve. Del Potro recovered enough to break back for 3-3 and started going for his shots again, playing some of his best tennis since the start, but once again it was Berdych who was the more steely competitor. When pressed hard on his serve at 5-6, he served three aces to force a tiebreak, taking a 3-2 lead as del Potro lost his footing again. Berdych’s fourth double fault of the match — the unfortunate trade-off of going after his second serves, which paid off well — levelled the score, but with del Potro looking for his first set point, the Argentine’s serve, which he thought was an ace, was over-ruled and called wide by El Jennati. A furious del Potro (who neglected to shake El Jennati’s hand) lost concentration and put a backhand into the net to give up match point and Berdych sealed it with his forty-first winner of the match.
With two players whose games are so similar, both playing at or near their best, it becomes less about tactics and more about who can execute better. In the end, Berdych’s sublime serving – he hit 15 aces — and his greater confidence and courage put him in a winning position, and he was nerveless enough to convert that advantage into a victory to be proud of. Now all he needs to do is repeat that in the final, where he is likely to face Roger Federer.