Tomas Berdych is putting together his finest Wimbledon since he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on his way to the 2010 final. Since then this year’s No.7 seed has not been beyond the last 16, but in the fourth round at Wimbledon 2013 he pushed past the young Australian Bernard Tomic 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 to make the last eight. Now he must once again defeat Djokovic if he is to make further progress.
“I’m very happy after a match like this,” said Berdych. “He is a great player, using all the skills you can possibly use on grass. That’s why it’s so tough to play him. So that makes me feel even better to be the winner. In the first two sets I was struggling with his very fast serve, and couldn’t get a return off his first serve at all. After two sets I found some rhythm and started to feel much more confidence, and that was proved in the last two sets. The support from my people in the player’s box was very nice. We are there as a team. I try to do the work on court and it’s great to have my family and girlfriend near. It gives you a little extra energy and it helps. Djokovic next, yes. It’s a nice challenge to play the world No.1 – always a great match and it will be even better here. I know how to beat him. I beat him last time and I’m going to try for the same again.”
Berdych’s match against Tomic on No.1 Court was close fought and intriguing, especially as they had never previously met. Two years ago here he reached the quarter-finals as an 18-year-old qualifier, the youngest man into the last eight since one Boris Becker in 1985. Even now he was still the second youngest player in the 128-man main draw. A year ago he was ranked 27 but since then his form has been inconsistent, hence his current ranking at 59. But to reach this fourth round he beat a string of quality opponents – the No.21 seed Sam Querrey, followed by the former world No.4 James Blake and then the No.9 seed Richard Gasquet in a truly splendid third round. Clearly the ongoing difficulties surrounding Tomic’s coach and father John were proving no hindrance here. (Tomic Senior is banned from entering the All England Club as he is facing an assault charge in Spain after allegedly butting his son’s training partner Thomas Drouet, allegedly after an argument over pay.)
The first two sets were decided by small margins. More than once it felt as if Berdych was beginning to stretch Tomic, forcing him into error, and holding a set point at 5-4. The tie-break was nip and tuck until Tomic netted a weak return which opened the door for Berdych. It seemed the Czech’s forehand was starting to do damage.
Neither could make break points count in the second, and it was crucial that Berdych sent the ball wide early in the breaker. A swashbuckling forehand gave Tomic three set points and on the third Berdych punched a volley long. Somehow he had contrived to lose a set where he won 91 per cent of points on his first serve.
At 1-1 in the third Berdych, at the fifth opportunity, finally managed to convert a break point – only to double fault twice in the next game to hand it back. Break points were littering the court, and at 3-3 Berdych needed four before his returning punched a conclusive hole in Tomic’s defences. Berdych was into his groove now, scorching a backhand past Tomic for a first set point. Frantic defence saved it and Tomic held, but Berdych’s winner count was going into overdrive, and he served it out. He broke for 2-1 in the fourth, and it was all.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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