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Djokovic demolishes nervy debutant Berdych

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Originally published on: 22/11/10 17:41

Novak Djokovic cruised through his opening Barclays ATP World tour Finals Group A match, beating debutant Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-3 in a contest the Serb dominated from start to finish.

Djokovic will next face the winner of Rafael Nadal’s showdown with Andy Roddick knowing that another straight-sets victory will guarantee him a spot in the semi-finals, while Berdych was left with more questions than answers following a sub-par performance at his first season finale appearance.

Berdych has won just three matches since the US Open, and showed little to ever suggest he would improve that tally against the man he beat to reach the Wimbledon final this summer. And while he hit 18 winners – just one less than Djokovic – a fatal 26 unforced errors took their toll.

Credit duly goes to Djokovic for a masterful performance both in attack and defence, his court coverage forcing Berdych to look for the lines he simply couldn’t find often enough. It might not have been a perfect display from the Serb, who made a string of unforced errors himself in a patchy display, but after breaking Berdych in the opening game and narrowly missing out on a second break in game three, he never looked back.

Djokovic quickly looked at home on the slow, low-bouncing stadium court at The O2. Drawing Berdych to the net before picking him off and playing some sublime touch tennis, the world No.3 ruthlessly dismantled an already fragile Berdych, having learnt his lesson in flagrancy the hard way last year.

“Because of the format last year, even though I made two wins and one loss, because of the set difference, I could not go through to the semi-final,” recalled Djokovic, who won the event in Shanghai in 2008. “You have to be really on the top of the game in order to win against those players, because these players who are taking part in this tournament are the best players in the world.  There is no easy match, easy opponent, whatever.”

With Nadal and Roddick also in Group A, Berdych – playing his first match at a season-ending championships – surely represented the easiest way to open his campaign. The Czech my have beaten Djokovic during his dream run to the Wimbledon final, but with his confidence rocked by a catalogue of early exits this autumn and the score settled for Djokovic in the Davis Cup semi-finals, the old frailties resurfaced in Berdych’s game.

It seems fitting that, with Argentine soccer legend Maradona taking a seat in Djokovic’s box midway through the first set, the Serb’s footwork should so distinctly outshine that of Berdych. Djokovic made light of Maradona’s arrival afterwards, joking that the Argentina manager has been helping him play high balls with his hands.

“It’s a big pleasure to meet him,” said Djokovic. “We exchanged some gifts, shirts and rackets in last two, three years, but never met in person. This was the first time.  So he’s going to stay throughout the whole tournament.  Hopefully he can be my lucky charm.”

Right now, it is Berdych who will need all the luck he can get. “You can practice as hard as you can, but the winning confident from the matches, you can’t get anywhere else than winning the matches.

“But, you know, that’s how it is. I just need to fight with that situation. I will. I mean, next two matches could happen anything. I just want to try to do it same, get ready for my next opponent, try my best again, and hope.”

In the doubles, Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi edged past Lukas Kubot and Oliver Marach 7-6(2) 6-4 in a cagey contest.

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