|Posted on November 21, 2011 at 11:45 PM|
Tomas in action, serves against Novak Djokovic
Djokovic Battles Past Berdych, Saving 1 M.P. To Start Group A Campaign
by James Buddell | 21.11.2011
Top seed Novak Djokovic recorded his 70th match win of the season on Monday in a hard-fought Group A round-robin match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Djokovic fought back to beat seventh seed Tomas Berdych, saving one match point at 5-6 in the deciding set, for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory in two hours and 38 minutes.
Djokovic hit 17 winners in total and committed 18 of his 33 unforced errors on his forehand. He converted three of eight break point opportunities. Berdych won 10 of his 16 approached to the net, but made 42 unforced errors. He hit 32 winners and six aces.
"It was the toughest match probably since the US Open," admitted Djokovic. "I mean, I wasn't very satisfied with my performance tonight. I know I wasn't playing on top of my game. But a win is a win in the end.
"I knew that my opponent tonight is an unpredictable player, who has a powerful groundstrokes and great serve. If he's on, if he feels the ball well, it's difficult to compete with him. That's what happened. I think he made pressure, a lot of pressure, on my serve, especially the second serve. He was stepping in. I went back. I was too passive."
Djokovic will play fifth seed David Ferrer of Spain during Wednesday's evening session. Berdych plays third seed Andy Murray in the afternoon session.
Berdych, whose only win over Djokovic came in last year's Wimbledon semi-finals, swept into a 4-0 lead, before the World No. 1 won two straight games. At 4-2, Berdych saved three break points at 15/40 and advantage and went on to close out the 48-minute set two games later with a hold to 30. Berdych hit 10 winner in the first set, while Djokovic committed 15 unforced errors and converted one of his five break point chances.
Djokovic, who had won 15 of 20 sets in their previous eight meetings, raised his game in the second set - gaining potency and direction on his serve (he won 23 of 28 points on his first delivery) - to take a 3-0 lead. He maintained the three-game cushion and calmly took the match to a decider with his second ace. Berdych, unable to create a single break point opportunity, made seven of 11 errors on his forehand.
Neither player created a break point opportunity through the first five games of the deciding set. Djokovic dropped to 15/40, at 2-3, when, after a lengthy baseline rally, Berdych hit a powerful forehand winner down the line. The Serbian was shaken into action. He responded immediately for 3-4, converting the first of his two break point chances on Berdych's serve at 15/40, when the Czech hit a forehand into the net. Djokovic went onto level the score at 4-4, but Berdych remained in a confident mood and came within two points of winning in the 10th game.
After a no-nonsense service hold to love for 6-5, Berdych once again applied the pressure. Djokovic found himself at 30/40, but saved the match point when Berdych mis-timed a forehand. In the tie-break, Berdych made four forehand errors in the first five points to give Djokovic a 4-1 lead. Djokovic remained in control and at 6-3 hit an unreturned serve. The third set lasted 64 minutes.
"I'm feeling really disappointed," said Berdych. "I had a match point, I had a break up in the third set, and I did something on the match point which I couldn't change now. Probably I would try to do the same if I would have a match point again. Maybe I was too risky. But that's how I play. That was my chance to end up the match.
"I don't know what I can take positive from this game. I mean, probably could be something. But the first thing is definitely going to be start to forget it as quickly as possible as I can and be ready for Wednesday."
Djokovic, 24, is bidding to lift his 11th tour-level title of the year, highlighted by three Grand Slam championship triumphs at the Australian Open (d. Murray), Wimbledon and the US Open (d. Nadal both times).
"It would mean a lot [to win the tournament]," said Djokovic. "It's a crown for all the achievements I had. It would be a fantastic way to end the best season in my career. But look, I need to step up a little bit. I need to raise the level of performance in order to have a chance to go all the way."
The 26-year-old Berdych has been one of the most consistent players on the ATP World Tour this year, reaching the quarter-finals (or better) in 15 of his 22 tournaments. He is the first Czech player to finish in the Top 10 in back-to-back seasons since Petr Korda in 1991-92.
UPDATE 22 November 2011:
Tennis Andy Murray pulls out of ATP World Tour Finals with groin injury. The Scot will be replaced in the eight-player, round-robin event by Serb Janko Tipsarevic.