Berdych breaks losing streak
Czech Tomas Berdych ended a demoralising run of outs to dump a struggling Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open in a straight sets triumph to reach the semifinal on Tuesday. The seventh seed finally mastered the Spanish 14-time Grand Slam champion 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7/5) in 2hr 13min and will face Britain’s Andy Murray for a place in the final. Murray, a three-time runner-up, downed 19-year-old Aussie Nick Kyrgio 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
It ended a record-equalling 17-match winning run Nadal had over Berdych, who claimed his second consecutive semifinal appearance in Melbourne after losing to Stan Wawrinka last year.
Only Bjorn Borg over Vitas Gerulaitis and Ivan Lendl against Tim Mayotte had chalked up 17-match head-to-head winning streaks on the ATP Tour. “I was definitely ready for it and set up my plan pretty well and I stuck with that through those three sets. I was expecting a very tough battle but I was ready for everything and I think that was the biggest thing from the past matches with Rafa. I started pretty well, but you are playing Rafa and you have to keep going until the last point,” Berdych said.
Nadal’s miserable performance was just statistically better than his worst Grand Slam result. He won only eight games, two more than the six games he took off Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinal at the 2009 US Open. The world number three also failed to win a game in the second set for his first ‘bagel’ at a Grand Slam since against Roger Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final and Andy Roddick in the second round at the 2004 US Open. It was a big start to the new season for Berdych and his new coach Dani Vallverdu, who formerly was part of the Andy Murray team.
“We set up the right tactics. Then I was able to execute that on the court. That’s what I’m really happy about,” said Berdych, who hit 46 winners and won 82 percent of his first serves. “I was playing a really good game. But I just need to look forward. The tournament is still long way to go” he added.
Nadal, who won the Australian title in 2009 and was a beaten finalist last year, looked out of sorts and his serve was broken five times to fall behind two sets to love. Berdych swooped on the misfiring Spaniard, reeling off a backhand return winner for the second set after just one hour on court. Nadal lost nine straight games before he held service in the second game of the third set, with plenty of concerned looks in his player box courtside as the errors kept flowing off his racquet. “I am feeling okay, it was just not my day. I didn’t play with the right intensity, with the right rhythm, and the opponent played better than me. I helped him a lot in the beginning. It’s easier to play well when you are up in the score, one break up, two breaks up from the beginning of every set. That’s a big deal, big difference,” Nadal said.
Nadal competed more in the third set which went to a tiebreaker but Berdych’s sledgehammer forehand was decisive.