Tonight’s quarter-final match between Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych was, without a doubt, the blockbuster match everyone was looking for, and it sure delivered, as well as bringing everyone one of the biggest surprises of the tournament.
At the start of the match, it was to wonder which player hadn’t played since Saturday, as Federer broke in the very first game, and despite a bit of difficulty, managed to consolidate the break. However, it quickly became clear that Berdych’s strokes and power, combined with Federer’s lack of rhythm, were starting to cost the Swiss, who got broken back in the sixth game, and then went on to play his worst tiebreak in quite a while to lose the first set 6-7(1).
The second set started no better than the first, as the Czech broke in the very first game, and continued playing absolutely brilliant tennis to even take a two-break lead in the seventh game, taking advantage of Federer’s quite sloppy tennis and many shanks. If the World n° 1 came back to recuperate one break at love the first time Berdych tried to serve out the match, the second time did for the sixth seed, who held for a two-set lead.
It seemed like Roger Federer was en route to his first career defeat in a night match at the U.S. Open (he was 23-0 at the start of the match), when Tomas Berdych quickly broke to start the third set, and consolidated just as easily.
However, it was without counting on the Czech’s ability to self-destruct at key moments of important matches. Just like it happened to Federer in the first set, it’s in the sixth game that the tide turned, although not in the same fashion Berdych had done it two sets before. Two double faults did the trick to hand the break back, and Federer went on to win the following three games, in great style, to take the set, 6-3, and stay alive at least one more set.
Considering the Berdych’s fire-power, it was too early yet to talk about a comeback, even though the break back efficiently woke the sleeping giant, as Roger Federer’s number of unforced errors considerably lowered starting in the middle of the second set and he started producing once more those shots that made him legend, cutting the angles like only he can do.
Still, it was far from over and Tomas Berdych mentally recovered from that dropped third set to start the fourth strongly. Federer also kept his level until the eight game of the set, where he once again started to err on his shots and, despite hitting one of his best volleys of the match, made a couple of unforced errors and had an unlucky net cord to give Berdych a break chance, which he took.
This time, the Czech didn’t let go, and served the match at love to inflict Roger Federer his first night match loss at the U.S. Open, 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 6-3. In the wake, he also became the first player since David Nalbandian in 2003 to defeat Federer before the semi-finals in New York. Since and including Federer’s 2009 comeback in the round-of-16 of the Australian Open, they have split the eight meetings they played, and the six of them played on hard courts.
A very hard loss for Roger Federer, who was obviously disappointed, and even hinted he might not go and play Davis Cup next week, in the Netherlands.
A game that bothers
Tomas Berdych has a game that bothers many of the top players. Very quick on his feet for such a tall guy (6’5″), his big, precise serve and good forehand are among the greatest skills of this very talented player.
Taking a player out of rhythm like Roger Federer was at the beginning of the match, tonight, makes him even more lethal, especially if the Czech can keep his composure, something he managed to do brilliantly, except for this patch in the third set when he allowed Federer back in the match.
Since the Winston-Salem Open, where he lost to John Isner in the finals, Berdych has shown that his issues of the last few months appeared to be a thing of the past.
Solid at the service line, brilliant in the rallies, he took every advantage given him by Federer in tonight’s match, never allowing the Swiss to find the rhythm he has lost by having an extra day off due to Mardy Fish’s walkover.
Just the same, Federer played, during the first two and a half sets, his worst tennis since the Rome semi-final he lost 2-6 6-7(4) to Novak Djokovic earlier this season. His footwork was a bit off, but not as much as his forehand, usually his best stroke but which, tonight, was really one of the causes of his downfall and the side from which most of his unforced errors came.
This is the first U.S. Open semi-final for Tomas Berdych, who will face Andy Murray for a spot in the finals.
If some thought it could be an easy match for the Scot, however, the head-to-head has to prove them wrong, as the Czech is one of his bêtes noires, having won four of their six meetings, even though Murray came out the victor the last time they played on hard courts, in Dubaï earlier this season.
This is clearly a match to look forward to, as well as a very open one, as Murray has been very inconsistent during this tournament, and has an epic Marin Cilic collapse to thank for coming back from a 3-6 1-5 deficit to win 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 6-0.