As Tomas Berdych clattered Roger Federer out of the US Open on Wednesday night, one man who would have had mixed feelings was his next opponent Andy Murray. Ask most players on the ATP tour if they would rather play the 17 grand-slam-winning world number one or the dangerous but erratic Berdych and almost all would name the Czech as their preferred option.
Murray however is one of only two men on tour to own a winning head-to-head with the Swiss maestro (Rafael Nadal being the other) while his record against the lean and mean Berdych is a 2-4 deficit.
In many ways this is typical; nothing is ever straightforward with Murray at grand slam events. After looking vulnerable against Feliciano Lopez in round three, the world number four gave a masterclass to dispatch Milos Raonic and move in the quarter-finals. Just when his fans thought things might be safe, the familiar white-knuckle ride recommenced with Murray flirting with disaster before eventually coming through at the expense of Marin Cilic.
Meanwhile Berdych has recovered from a poor summer season to cut through the draw at Flushing Meadow and has only dropped a set to Sam Querrey and Roger Federer on his way to the semi-final. The victory over Federer will have lent much confidence to the number six seed, particularly as his similar win at Wimbledon in 2010 saw him go on to make the final. Berdych will be looking to keep points short and crank up the powerful forehand.
The matchup is similar in some respects to the one that played out between Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic on Thursday night: a tall powerhouse taking on a more mobile and versatile opponent. In particular Murray will be looking to use variation to wrong foot Berdych and force him to stoop for low balls.
Of their six previous meeting, only one has been at a grand slam. Berdych took the honours at Roland Garros in 2010 and triumphed at their most recent meeting at this year’s Monte Carlo Masters – again on clay. On hardcourt the head-to-head is 2-1 in favour of the Czech, although one of those meetings dates back to 2006.
Murray has famously lost four grand slam finals while Berdych has lost one; both will be desperate for the chance to contest another. Despite the head-to-head, Murray starts as deserved favourite but it is unlikely that the in-form Berdych will allow another poor start by the Scot to go unpunished.