Score card is often deceptive. Sometimes a win in three straights sets can make us believe that all went well with the winner. But in tennis, one or two bad games here and there, you might even lose the match despite having a higher number of winners in the books. It all boils down to reining in unforced errors and lapping up crucial points at crucial junctures.
That’s what No.7 Tomas Berdych did in the first set of the AO quarter finals yesterday again No.2 Nadal. His footwork was way above his own standards and he matched Nadal’s sprint each time the points dragged into rallies. He even won a good number of long rallies against Nadal—something that doesn’t go down well with the latter. In fact, winning long rallies—often with a forehand pass down the line—has been Nadal’s most reliable weapon. The moment his opponent begins to approach the net, he begins to err. Berdych’s net attempts revealed he had his homework done.
I have always looked at Berdych as someone with a terrific serve but not a player who can win rallies unless he takes chances and goes for winners. But yesterday, Berdych was a different man. He was in such a right frame of mind and his fighting spirit was so high that the Aussie crowd almost forgot his unsportsman-like behaviour against Almagro in the previous round when he refused to shake hands with him. He must have had fears of being booed again before the match started. But there wasn’t not a shade of apprehension when he began serving like a man possessed.
In fact, he even deserved the second set for the kind of efforts he put in. But sad, the loss of a couple of crucial points gave Nadal the edge. Nadal didn’t let go of the momentum in the following sets. He never does.
Roger Federer must have watched the marathon match sitting in his locker room. And I am sure he found Nadal’s aura of invincibility tapering off each time Berdych broke Nadal’s serve and went for a winner.