Tonight in the quarterfinals at the Sony Ericsson Open, world number one Rafael Nadal collided with 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych. Nadal staved off Berdych 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to get to the semifinals against archrival Roger Federer.
With Nadal winning nine of the twelve meetings against Berdych and the last eight, the contest at first seemed a formality. Particularly the manner in which Nadal got out of the gates.
Nadal raced to a 3-0 advantage in the primary set by taking Berdych’s first two games. Then, by provoking a backhand miscue from Berdych padded his lead to 4-0.
With Berdych serving, Nadal hit an awesome forehand crosscourt pass off a backhand overhead by Berdych which summed up the miserable time that Berdych was having. Still, Berdych held to make the score respectable at 4-1.
While Nadal had no trouble carrying the set, the next couple of games, Berdych demonstrated that he finally awoke.
In the opening game of the second set, Berdych overcame double break point to maintain serve. Subsequently, when Nadal double faulted and had a forehand go long, Berdych had double break point. With a forehand up the line winner, Berdych grabbed the break for 2-0.
Then, Berdych consolidated for a 3-0 lead. During the changeover, Nadal called for the trainer and the Spaniard had his shoulder and neck attended to. After the treatment, Nadal held for 3-1.
Nadal received treatment again during the second set. In the eighth game, Nadal fought off two set points to guard serve for 5-3. However, with strong serving, Berdych closed the set with a love game.
Prior to the commencement of the third set, Nadal was manipulated by the trainer for the third time. By slicing a backhand long, Nadal stared at triple break point.
A mistake by Berdych and three consecutive aces gave Nadal game point. The Spaniard finished the game with a forehand volley winner.
Both players had relatively fast service games with no break point until the eighth game.
When Berdych dumped a forehand into the net after Nadal’s penetrating stroke, the latter had double break point. Nadal went up 5-3 when Berdych again netted a forehand.
As a result of a winner, Nadal arrived at triple match point. With Berdych’s backhand sailing long, Nadal wrote his name opposite Federer’s in the semifinals.
A conspicuously disappointed Berdych said “to break after winning the second set, that would have been a great chance for me. But, he just served unbelievably well. . . You can expect three or four aces from somebody like [Andy] Roddick or [Ivo] Karlovic. But from Rafa [not really], just too good for him”.
Still, Berdych said there are positives to take away from this encounter when asked by MiamiTennisNews.com “the matches since the last time I beat him, I had not won a set against him. . . I was trying something different today. Until maybe the last service game it was working pretty well and I had a good run”.
After the match, Nadal cited that it was unusual that his serve actually saved the match. Something that would not have been possible probably four years ago.
As far the right shoulder injury, Nadal stated that he felt a pinched nerve, something that had never occurred before. The Spaniard expressed that he just blocked out the injury in the third set. After all, it’s the quarterfinals of a Masters Series one of the most important tournaments.
Nadal felt confident that he would be well for the challenge of playing Federer tomorrow night. In their head to head, Nadal leads Federer 14-8.
Speaking of Federer, Nadal iterated that it’s always nice and “special” to play Federer. Over the years, they’ve developed a friendship and he does not view it as a “rivalry”. The two have battled in so many finals and he has great respect for Federer.
Nadal is in his second straight semifinal in Miami. In 2005 and 2008, Nadal advanced to the final but was stopped by Federer the first time, then surprised by Nikolay Davydenko the second.