By Alexandra Willis at the O2 Arena
26 November 2010
Andy Murray will meet Rafael Nadal in the first semi-final of the Barclays ATP World Tour at London’s O2 Arena after the world No.1 blistered through his final round robin match against Tomas Berdych. Producing the kind of unrivalled shot-making that we have come to expect from the muscular Mallorcan, Nadal looked in ominous form for such a late stage in the season, all memories of last year’s disappointing run here in London banished to the bottom of his trophy cabinet.
In a re-match of this year’s men’s singles final at Wimbledon, the 6ft 5ins Czech started powerfully, threatening Nadal’s serve in the second game, but could not do more than see a break opportunity demolished by an ace off the Spaniard’s Babolat racket. Trading winner for winner, the duo tussled and trawled away at the baseline, Berydch forced to save break points in successive service games as Nadal sought to break clear.
Controversy descended briefly with the world No.1 serving to stay in the match at 5-6, when a ball at Nadal’s feet appeared to land just outside the baseline, but wasn’t called out. Overruled by the umpire, Berdych then challenged, and was awarded the point, leading to a flurry of remonstrations in torrential Spanish between Nadal and Brazilian umpire Carlos Bernades. Whether the incident lingered in his mind or not, the Spaniard held serve to send the set into a tie-break, and had seen blitzed into a 6-2 lead, needing just the one more point to take the set.
From then Berdych, who had played valiantly to beat Andy Roddick on Wednesday, was left to flounder on the O2’s navy blue court as Nadal reached top tempo, breaking serve at 2-1 for a 3-1 lead, and a commanding advantage. The Czech did not get on the scoreboard again, Nadal leaping into the air as he completed a 7-6, 6-1 victory.
It caps the end of a remarkable season for the Spaniard, who at this stage last year was heading home with three defeats, and not a single set, next to his name. “For me, finish the season winning all the matches in the group, three victories against top eight players in probably the most difficult surface for me, is unbelievable now,” Nadal said. To lift the season-ending tropy would be even more unbelievable. But first, Nadal has to get past a certain Scot.
“If you talk about the people and the specialists of tennis, everybody can say the conditions are a little bit more easier for Andy than for me here. The court is a little bit more easier for him than for me. I say I gonna try my best. I know gonna be a really difficult match. Only chance for me to win is to play my best tennis, wait that Andy didn’t play his highest level, no? The pressure come back to him now.”
Nadal leads Murray 8-4 in their head-to-head. The Scot won their most recent encounter 6-3, 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Toronto Masters in August.
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