Djokovic vs Berdych

Can Tomas Berdych Upset the Immovable Object that is Novak Djokovic?

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(July 1, 2013) For all the mayhem that this Wimbledon brought, we have chalked in the quarterfinals for the top half of the draw, and the most-hyped match will definitely be the one involving the World No. 1.

Novak Djokovic leads the career head-to-head against Tomas Berdych 13-2. Berdych, however, won the last time they met, taking 3 sets to upset Djokovic in Rome. Berdych also won the only time they met at Wimbledon, in the 2010 semifinals. That, of course, was the match following Berdych’s historic upset of Roger Federer.

Both Djokovic and Berdych have been playing some very good tennis all tournament. Bernard Tomic managed to throw Berdych off his game in their fourt-round match, but Berdych was just too solid and too good overall, even if he hit some bad errors. Djokovic’s level of defense has been superb and he has moved from defense to offense beautifully. He has been moving on the grass here like he’s playing on clay and doing it successfully.

This match for Berdych could honestly feel similar to that 2010 match against Federer. This will all be about trying to hit the ball past Djokovic’s defense. Djokovic will get balls back into play and try to counterattack. If Berdych is to be successful here, he needs to hit big and easily shake it off when Djokovic wins insane defensive points—something that definitely will happen. Berdych will be tempted to try and wrong-foot Djokovic when possible if he doesn’t have a bit shot available, but watching Djokovic this tournament it just doesn’t look like that will work.

Djokovic, on the other hand, just needs to play his solid game for an entire match. Berdych will win points by hitting the ball past him. He needs to ignore those and insert himself in enough points to rattle the big Czech. He needs to win those points and just always make Berdych hit the extra shot.

This should be an exciting match because the two players have such very different strengths and will each be trying to dictate throughout the match. Both players will need to concentrate on their own games and ignore their opponents. This match will be all about who can sustain momentum. Berdych has the ability to win and lose chunks of points very quickly, either by slapping winners or spraying errors.

This match will not completely rest on Berdych’s racket. Djokovic has the ability to dictate rallies as well and keep Berych from hitting his huge groundstrokes. Still, if Berdych can keep momentum and hit the ball cleanly throughout the match he will have his chances. Berdych will get to dictate more than Djokovic will. If he wants to win, he will have to stay consistent and go for his winners. Most of all, though, he can’t let Djokovic’s defense or his own nerves get to him.

The Spanish Inquisition

James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.

By James Crabtree

MELBOURNE –

It is difficult to fathom how hard Nicholas Almagro strikes the ball.

He glares with the eyes of a temperamental bull, but hits with the flowing grace and control of a Matador. An interesting scenario, Almagro uses his racquet as a muleta to tease and finish a pesky ferret.

A method that was proving successful for the first time.

Ferrer has beaten Almagro all twelve times they have played, including 5 losses in finals, a matter that doesn’t sit well with Almagro. “I don’t want to think about that. He is the No. 4 of the world. He is the favourite. He beat me many times, but many matches were close.”

Still, this was only their second meeting at a grand slam, and surprisingly Almagro looked like the player with more experience.

Ferrer was coming up against a player who was in rhythm, a player who controlled the rallies with the crosscourt backhand, then owned it with a backhand down the line.

Only one break of serve separated them in the first and second set, proving how many matches are decided by just a few crucial points.

Still, Ferrer was being rushed and uncharacteristically antagonised, vocalising his disdain and even swiping his racquet down on the court.

Meanwhile Almagro had all but passed the finish line and banked a cheque of $500,000, the guaranteed sum for a grand slam semi-final and $250,000 more than the quarterfinal purse.

Obstinate to the last, Ferrer dug in with Almagro serving for the match two sets to love up and 5-4. Now the tension the favourite had felt was all gone. Subsequently Ferrer edged himself forward on the baseline whilst his opponent attempted to win by pushing the ball.

Suddenly Ferrer was playing his typical game, taking the set and reminding his opponent that he still had to finish the quarter final. Ferrer reflected, “Well, it’s very difficult to win [against]Nico [Almagro], no? I think he played better than me in the first set. There was a break.  I play bad in myself in one break.  In the second, I didn’t play good, no?  In the third, I feel better with my game. I can play more aggressive.”

Ferrer had stolen the momentum that Almagro craved and now everyone expected that the match would go the distance.

Indeed, the fifth set came but only after an unbearably tense fourth set, where again Almagro squandered his chances, twice serving again for the match before losing in the tiebreak. “I think the tiebreak of the fourth set I played very good. And in the fifth, he was cramping, problems with his leg, so it was easier for me,” reflected Ferrer to reporters of his 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 victory.

Almagro, nursing a suspected injured groin and wearing an incredulous smile ran out of drive, reeling at the opportunity lost.

The two players hugged afterwards, their level of friendship striking after such destructive circumstances, with Ferrer humble of his achievement, “I try to fight every point, every game. I know all the players in important moments we are nervous. I know that. I try to do my best. Today I was close to lost, sure. But finally I come back, no?”

Ferrer progresses to the semi-final where he will face either Novak Djokovic or Tomas Berdych.

Lucky Number 13? Previewing Djokovic vs. Berdych

By Evan Valeri

The upcoming 2013 Australian Open quarterfinal match between Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych marks the thirteenth time the two players will face off. Out of the previous twelve matches the Birdman was only able to capitalize once, taking out the Serb in straight sets during the 2010 Wimbledon semi finals. The last time the two met in a major was down under in 2011, a contest which Djokovic won, 6-1, 7-6, 6-1. Throughout the course of the last two years the two have played six other times. Berdych was able to take first set during three of the matchups, just to lose the next two. Does Berdych have what it takes to beat the reigning champ and world number one and advance to the semifinals in Melbourne?

The two players have very unique games which are quite different from one another. Djokovic plays a great all court style which has shown very few chinks in the armor over the past two seasons. He is able to play magically from all areas of the court. Opponents have said that even when he is playing defense he seems to stay offensive. He has a serve which has came together nicely over the years, giving him the ability to mix up spin, placement, and speed. He keeps his opponents guessing better than anyone. Djokovic is capable of ripping forehands and backhands from anywhere on the court with equal success. It’s hard to pick on one wing over the other when playing the Djoker. Whenever necessary he stays on top of the baseline and plays aggressively ,moving players wherever he pleases as though he has them on a string.

Berdych on the other hand has an aggressive baseliner’s mentality. He has a very conventional style of game compared to many other players on tour. Where you see players like Novak running side to side and hitting a majority of groundstrokes from an open stance, Berdych prefers to step into the ball often hitting from a square or semi open stance. He holds the racquet with a semi-western forehand grip, which is the most popular forehand grip on tour today. Where he differs is that many players follow-through lower on the forehand side, somewhere between the elbow and shoulder. This allows them to quickly come over the ball and apply tremendous amounts of topspin. Many of Tomas’ forehand follow-throughs are high over his shoulder. He has a smooth, classic, flat hitting style, barely dropping the racquet below the ball and driving through with great extension. This flat hitting style allows him to be very aggressive and hit massive groundstrokes which keep opponents on the defensive. Berdych moves well for his 6’5” height but playing defense isn’t exactly a strength for the Czech.

Djokovic is number one in the world because he has the most complete game physically but more important, mentally. He knows how to get it done. As I stated earlier throughout the past two years Berdych was able to win the first set fifty percent of the time, yet couldn’t capitalize. Novak has no problem playing from behind and is one of those guys who is hard to stay in front of. He copes better with high pressure situations than anyone else on tour.

Take a look at Djokovic’s last two five set matches during the Australian Open. At one point against Nadal in the final last year it seemed like he was gassed and had nothing left in the tank. Where in reality, he saved some energy and stayed in the match by cranking winners and ending points quickly at opportune moments. This allowed him to really turn it on and play spectacular tennis when it counted in the fifth set and come away the victor. During this tournament his previous round match against Stan Wawrinka was another epic, which he won 12-10 in the fifth. The last point of the match said it all. A grinding rally which included Wawrinka ripping two balls to Novak’s backhand side that didn’t seem retrievable that late in the fifth set, to set up a short approach shot, which Novak flicked a backhand off from knee level for a crosscourt passing shot winner to end the match. To cap it all off Novak knows how to win and Berdych has had a hard time throughout his career getting it done against the best players on the biggest of stages.

Besides the physical and mental matchups, this battle features many intangibles that shouldn’t be overlooked. First of all is the amount of time both players have spent on court. Berdych hasn’t dropped a set all tournament and should go into the night match feeling very fresh. Djokovic on the other hand is coming off that grueling five hour victory over Wawrinka in the previous round. Will the world number one come out with a full tank of energy against the world number six player? It’s tough to really say, Novak is probably in the best shape of anyone out there, but when was the last time he had to play a match a day after a five hour dogfight. Secondly, players have said that the courts are playing slightly faster than previous years. This could be in the big hitting Birdman’s favor. The third thing to keep in mind if you are Tomas, is the daunting task of erasing that 1-11 win loss record against Djokovic from memory.

Berdych has a tough task in front of him tonight as he tries to knock off Djokovic but then again nothing is impossible. If he is to prove victorious he will most likely have to keep points short, attacking weak returns, and pulling the trigger whenever he gets a good look. He will also need to win the majority of the rallies lasting less than ten shots. Berdych will also have to serve well and keep Djokovic from getting away early in sets. Tiebreaks could prove to be life or death situations for Tomas, and he needs to win them in order to get it done. Djokovic is the favorite and Berdych will most likely have to play nearly flawless tennis and have a little luck on his side to win. No matter who comes out victorious it should prove to be a fun match for spectators featuring some huge hit winners, unbelievable defensive retrievals, and emotions running high as these two titans battle for a spot in the 2013 Australian Open semifinals.

Evan Valeri is a USPTA P2 tennis teaching professional and has a USTA Sports Science Level 1 certification. He graduated from Ferris State University with a degree in Professional Tennis Management/Marketing and enjoys the technical and coaching side of tennis. You can view his website here: www.totaltennisplayer.com.