November 27, 2010 | In: Articles
Nadal to face Murray
Rafael Nadal will play Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after beating Tomas Berdych on Friday to complete a clean sweep of Group A.
In a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final, the world number one defeated his Czech opponent 7-6 (7/3) 6-1. The world number one had already beaten Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena, 12 months after failing to win a set at the venue.
The result sees Berdych, the only debutant at this year’s tournament, eliminated with Nadal appearing in supreme form as he reached the last four in London for the first time.
He said: “It was a very important victory because every day I’m playing a little better and today I played a great match. It’s going to be a really, really difficult match against Andy.”
Berdych succumbed without much of a fight at Wimbledon but gave a much better account of himself this time around – in the first set at least.
Having struggled for confidence since the summer, he suddenly upped his game against Roddick on Wednesday – Berdych’s ferocious forehand in particular back up to scratch.
He held serve easily in the opening game before forcing two immediate break points. However, two big serves from Nadal helped him to get out of trouble.
The tables were turned in the fifth game as a delightful backhand from Nadal took him to 15-40.
But this time it was Berdych’s turn to fight back as a lunging forehand denied his opponent when he looked poised to break.
The world number six, who won three of his first four meetings with Nadal but who has not even taken a set in their last seven encounters, had the groundstrokes but his first-serve percentage was down in the 30s.
That fact counted in Nadal’s favour but Berdych continued to keep him at bay, and in the 12th game he was two points away from the set at 15-30 on his opponent’s serve.
Controversy then followed when a Berdych backhand appeared to land long and Nadal put his finger in the air to challenge – just as the umpire decided to overrule his linesman and call the shot out.
Berdych then challenged himself and the replay showed the ball to be just in. The umpire awarded the point to the Czech – something which angered Nadal, who had not actually challenged a call.
He debated the point with the umpire and the supervisor but the decision stood
Far from wilting though, Nadal showed his champion’s mettle by promptly holding to take the set to a tie-break.
Indeed, the controversy seemed to affect Berdych more, and he will want to forget most of the 13th game.
Nadal only needed a set to reach the last four and he greeted the winning forehand with a leap of celebration.
Berdych still needed at least one set to stay in contention for a last-four spot and his saving of a break point in his opening service game of the second set was a must.
He could not do the same at the end of the fourth game, though, as an ill-advised drop shot gave Nadal the first break of the match.
Berdych then double faulted to present his opponent with another break, before Nadal served out for victory.
Berdych later accused the officials of being intimidated by Nadal during the first set.
He said: “It shows that the referee is probably scared of him because he lets him talk with him for too long.
“Every game is very tough. Even if you get a chance to have a 15-30, you need to play, not be waiting and talking for three minutes.
“The rules are quite correct. When you ask for the challenge, he stops the game. It’s so simple. He was almost sitting there, like he’s not going to play.
“It’s not the mistake of Rafa. It’s the mistake of the referee. He just needs to show him that it’s not like he can do whatever he wants on the court.”
For his part, Nadal denied that he had put his hand up to challenge and claimed the point would not have changed the outcome of the match.
“I didn’t make a challenge,” he said. “He (umpire Carlos Bernardes) called the ball out. Maybe I stopped a little bit because the ball was really close, but I never said stop.
“It didn’t change anything, that point. I think I was still playing the same level before that point and after that point.”
The temper Nadal had flashed on court eased, however, when he was reminded how his performances this week differed to last year.
On that occasion, he ended a season ravaged by injury with straight-sets defeats to Nikolay Davydenko, Robin Soderling and Djokovic.
Nadal added: “It’s a very good end of the season, irrespective of the result tomorrow.
“For me, finishing the season by winning all the matches in the group, three victories against top-eight players on probably the most difficult surface for me, is unbelievable.”