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Berdych Bludgeons Soderling for Berth in Sony Ericsson Open Final

In the second male semifinal at the Sony Ericsson Open, the majority of the highlight reel was filled by Tomas Berdych.  Berdych, the 16th seed, squashed Robin Soderling, the 5th seed, 6-2, 6-2 to move on to the finals where his ultimate challenge will be Andy Roddick.

When Berdych sent a forehand wide following a great return in the initial game of the match, Soderling had break point. However, with a series of booming serves including an ace on game point, Berdych held.  Similarly, Soderling had a comfortable game his first time out.  But, on his second trip, Soderling was pushed to deuce.  Nevertheless, with a forehand winner, Soderling pocketed the game for 2 all. Yet down at 2-3, Soderling made two errors; then, with a forehand up the line winner, Berdych gave himself triple break point.  When Soderling dumped a backhand into the net, Berdych moved ahead 4-2.  After easily consolidating, Berdych broke Soderling at love for the second successive occasion to terminate the set.

Up to this juncture, Soderling had two primary problems, a low first serve percentage and too many errors, particularly with his main weapon, the forehand.  Yet, despite being blown off the court the first set, Soderling’s body language was positive.  In the first game of the second set, when Berdych committed an error serving at 30-0, Soderling pumped his fist.  That attitude at least helped Soderling out of a tight spot in the second game.  As a result of a double fault, Soderling stared at double break point.  Although with difficulty, Soderling carried the game for 1 all.  Then for the first time in the match, by forcing a couple of mistakes on Berdych’s serve, Soderling had 0-30.  Still, with Soderling incapable of finding a decent return rhythm, Berdych inched in front 2-1.  The next game, when Soderling’s forehand up the line missed its mark, Berdych had break point. Luckily, Soderling came up with the answers, erasing a total of two break points to equalize things at 2 all.  However, serving at 2-3, Soderling’s forehand up the line miscue resulted in a break point for Berdych.  Unable to find the range with another forehand, Soderling handed Berdych a 4-2 advantage.  After Berdych consolidated quickly for 5-2, he pressured Soderling into a caravan of errors to arrive at match point.  Then, with a return winner, Berdych ended the match and claimed the remaining final spot.

After his tremendous victory, wanted to know how Berdych was able impose his will on the match:

Q.  The last two times you met Robin, one was in Sunrise in a challenger series here, and [the other in] Kuala Lumpur.  He pretty much beat you handily.  How did you change your game plan or tactics today?
BERDYCH:  Yeah, I mean, it was I would say pretty simple.  Both of those matches he was playing really aggressive[ly] and I was just . . . waiting for some mistakes or something and giv[ing] him too much time to just do on the court whatever he want[ed].  So, this time I just need[ed] to play more aggressive. . .  Step a little bit more into the court, try to play faster and a little longer shots against him, and just not give him too much time.  Then all the errors can come.  That’s what happened today.  I was serving pretty [well] today.  But, I would say really [the] key point was in the first game when I was break point down. . . Maybe if . . .  he took [that game] and start[ed] really strong, the match could be different.  It wasn’t, so I’m happy for that.

Berdych had two mentally depleting three set matches.  The first was in the round of 16 where he came through against Roger Federer, then in the quarterfinals versus Fernando Verdasco.  In those pressure situations previously, Berdych has been known to push the self-eject/panic button.  Therefore, asked:

Q.  Do you feel like your success lately has been due to your mental attitude, that it’s been more positive than in the past?

BERDYCH:  Yes, of course.  That’s really important thing. . .  But, you know, this thing is tough to be improving . . . in [a] couple of weeks, [or] months . This is really [a] thing that [as] you just get older, you just get more experience.  All those things together can help you with this. Of course, trying to work [at] it.  I’m very happy that it works, and I hope that it can be just better and better.  That’s what I need.

Not only is this Berdych’s first Masters final in Miami, it is his first since 2005 ATP Masters in Paris where he captured his sole Masters’ shield by defeating Ivan Ljubicic.

In the finals on Sunday, Berdych plays Roddick against whom he has a 2-5 record. These players have meet twice this year, in the semifinals in Brisbane and the quarterfinals in San Jose with Roddick being the victor both times.

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