|Posted on July 1, 2010 at 11:09 PM|
From Official website Wimbledon | Thursday, 1 July 2010
It's one thing producing the biggest performance of your career as Tomas Berdych did to shock Roger Federer on Wednesday, but it is a different kind of challenge awaiting the Czech when he steps on to Centre Court with third seed Novak Djokovic on semi-finals day. How often have we seen an underdog dump out a favourite only to struggle to reproduce that same sparkling form in their next match.
After the euphoria of dethroning the six-times champion on the greatest stage in world tennis, the 12th-seeded Czech must quickly return from cloud nine to focus on his next challenge. Can the 24-year-old produce another two big performances and become the first Czech Wimbledon men's champion since Jan Kodes in 1973?
The Berdych fan club would argue that the tennis their man has produced this year suggests that he can. The 6ft 5in right-hander began 2010 in 20th place in the ATP singles rankings but his form since then has pushed him seven spots higher. He will rise to No.8 if he reaches Sunday's final.
He had made three quarter-finals and one semi before catching fire in Miami in April, where he bullied Federer, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling into submission to reach his second Masters 1000 final. His first Grand Slam semi-final followed at Roland Garros and a few weeks later he's done it again.
Experts suggest this is a more mature Berdych we're watching, a player able to recover from minor distractions that in the past might have sent him into meltdown.
The man himself would agree. "You know, it's many things," he says of his recent form. "You get more and more experience. I get a little bit older, to be more focused, mentally stronger than before. That's what you need."
Berdych will have to block out the memory of his two previous meetings with Djokovic - straight-sets hard court defeats when the Czech picked up just 11 games in four sets. He is quick to make the point that the last of those matches was in April 2009 and so those results can be discounted. He says all he will concern himself with on Friday is what is happening on his side of the court.
"The important [thing] is gonna be what my game is gonna be. I'm going to try to do the same on Friday, you know, to be 100 per cent ready, concentrate, and we gonna see what's Novak going to do on the court."
Djokovic, too, will approach his seventh Grand Slam semi-final brimming with confidence. Many felt Lleyton Hewitt might have had too much for him in the last 16, but the 2008 Australian Open champion showed great spirit to come through in four sets despite suffering with an upset stomach.
The tennis he produced to beat Andy Roddick's conqueror, Lu Yen-Hsun, on Wednesday was top drawer stuff, breezing past the world No.82 for the loss of just seven games.
For a player who has had his fair share of ups and downs during the first half of 2010, his form at Wimbledon has come as a nice surprise. "Yeah, it's really refreshing," the 23-year-old says. "I was struggling with the level of my performance throughout the last five, six months. But right now I'm playing great."
Djokovic will be appearing in his second Wimbledon semi-final after featuring in the last four in 2007 but will be keen to banish the memories of that day. A punishing five-hour quarter-final victory over Marcos Baghdatis had left him running on empty and suffering with a back and foot injury. He quit his semi against Rafael Nadal midway through the third set.
Even after his problems against Hewitt on Monday this year, Djokovic insists his fitness won't be a factor. "I had to play three matches in three days, very exhausting matches [in 2007]. When I got to the semi-final stage, I wasn't ready for that. But this time I'm ready mentally and physically. Just barely waiting to get on the court."
Like everyone who watched Berdych beat Federer, Djokovic witnessed the level of tennis his next opponent is capable of, but says he has a clear idea of what he needs to do. "He's a big server and he has powerful groundstrokes," the world No.3 observes. "I'm gonna have to be patient and wait for the chances. I'll give everything to be in the finals."