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Nadal relentless en route to semi-finals


 

Originally published on: 26/11/10 17:39

Rafael Nadal will play Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday after the world No.1 sealed top spot in Group A with a 7-6(3) 6-1 win over Tomas Berdych.

In a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final, Nadal rode out some stern resistance from the Czech in the opening set before racing away to victory in the second, closing out the match in an hour and 55 minutes.

“For me, three victories  against top-eight players in probably the most difficult surface for me in unbelievable,” said the Spaniard, who exited last year’s event without a victory to his name.

Both Nadal and Berdych let break points slip from their grasp in the early exchanges before each settling into their rhythms. Berdych, who admitted arriving in London low on confidence after a difficult season following his semi-final appearance at Roland Garros and run to the Wimbledon final, began the match with renewed assurance following his victory over Andy Roddick on Wednesday, taking the game to the world No.1 with his firm, flat ground strokes.

The set lurched towards a tiebreak, but not before Rafa let rip at umpire Carlos Bernades and the tournament referee at 6-5 over a successful challenge from Tomas Berdych when his forehand caught the back of the line. Nadal appeared to challenge himself before Bernades called the ball out.

When Berdych was awarded the point to take him to 15-30 the Spaniard marched up to the chair for an explanation as to why the point was not being replayed. But having stormed through the remainder of the game with some suddenly energised tennis, Nadal was philosophical after the event.

“It was a mistake,” confirmed Nadal, who denied challenging the ball despite raising his hand. “But he is a good umpire. Everyone makes mistakes.”

Fired up, Nadal ran away with the tiebreak as unwelcome errors crept back into Berdych’s game at just the wrong time, and with a lead the world No.1 moved through the gears to race away in the second. The Spaniard is adamant that the format and surface makes this his hardest assignment of the year, but with his serve firing and his slice backhand getting him out of trouble time and again, he made the second set look very easy indeed.

Berdych saved a break point in his first service game but it was to be the final game of his season. Nadal was irresistible from that point onwards, claiming the next five games with a minimum of fuss to complete his hat-trick of group stage wins.

Nadal now turns his attentions to Murray, who he faces in the first of Saturday’s semi-finals. “Tomorrow for sure going to be a very difficult match against one of the best players of the world – maybe the circumstances are more favourable of him. But I’m happy how I am playing, how I improved during the tournament.”

Murray had told reporters last night that he didn’t fancy his chances against the world No.1, but Nadal downplayed the mind games. “If you talk about the people and the specialists of tennis, everybody can say the conditions for me are a little bit more easier for Andy than for me here, but we can talk for two days. The only thing that really matter is what going to happen tomorrow.”

For Berdych, a standout season ends today. Defeat leaves Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick vying for the last semi-final spot this evening, but tennis is, for the first time in a long time, he last thing on the 25-year-old’s mind.

“The goal for right now, it’s definitely to take rest,” admitted Berdych. “I’m going almost two seasons in a row, because we played the Davis Cup final last year.  I really like to have some days off and not to be thinking anymore about the tennis.  And then we can be talking about some goals for the next season.”

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