The ultimate clash in Group A at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London featured top-ranked Rafael Nadal and fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych who was still chasing his semi-final ticket. Rafa was on a fifteen-match winning streak against the Czech with the last defeat coming in Madrid seven years ago.
The Spanish matador got off to a flying start by creating a double break point in the opening game and converted right away to steal the opponent’s serve. He surrendered only six points on his serve in the opener to keep the rival at bay and avoid any upsets. He held the final service game in the first set without any difficulties to move one nil up which meant he was going to finish top of Group A.
The tables have turned in the following set as the Birdman put in a majestic performance to rush to a 4-0 double break lead – Nadal gathered only a couple of points during that time. 73% of the Czech’s first serves found the mark in the set number two and he came out a winner of 88% of those rallies. Rafa did get on the board at 5-1, but was otherwise a spectator as Berdych claimed the set in twenty-nine minutes.
Nadal expectedly improved in the decider which has turned out to be a neck and neck race until 4-3 when the Czech player – who let his first serve ratio drop to 52% in that part of the match – paid a price of some shaky moments and granted the resurgent Spaniard a triple break point. He fended off the first one, but then double-faulted for the second time during the service game to enable Rafa pulling 5-3 ahead. The follow-up game would be hardly more than a formality with Nadal defending the last of Berdych’s attacks with a fabulous passing shot to convert the second match point and secure a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win. He extended the impressive head-to-head lead against the Birdman to 17-3 and ensured Stan Wawrinka a runner-up position in Group A as well as a spot in London semis.
“I [attained] my goal,” said Nadal. “I am in the semi-finals without losing a match. So that’s most important thing for me. Any opponent will be very difficult. We are playing against the best players in the world. So if is del Potro, if is Federer, both players know very well how to beat me, on this surface especially. The only way to win the match of semi-finals is by playing my best match, playing fantastic tennis. I have one day off. One day tomorrow to keep playing well, keep trying to improve a little bit more.”
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