Perhaps the most anticipated match in a packed day of tennis in Melbourne was the showdown between twelfth seeded Juan Martin del Potro and nineteenth seeded Tomas Berdych. This match, featuring two of tennis’ biggest hitters promised plenty of huge serves and laser-like groundstrokes. While Berdych delivered on this promise, playing a tremendous match in all facets, del Potro was well below par and did not look physically ready to compete with poor serving and movement. The result was Berdych out-muscling del Potro 6-3 6-3 6-3 to move into the fourth round of the Australian Open
del Potro would get off to a lackadaisical start, as he seemed to be lumbering around the court and made a series of errors to give Berdych an early break. However, Berdych immediately repaid the favor with two doubles and some errors to hand the break right back. While both men’s serves continued be under attack, they both saved break points to trade holds. However, at 2-3, del Potro could not muster up the necessary firepower to come back from another 15-40 hole, and Berdych secured the break. del Potro looked a step slow moving to most of his shots and his first serve had completely deserted him, an indication that his legs weren’t quite there. Berdych continued to take advantage, holding for 5-2 despite a controversial call going against him. While del Potro navigated another tricky hold of serve in the next game, he was merely delaying the inevitable as Berdych rained down some big serves to claim the opening set 6-3.
After a set in which he was outclassed in every department, del Potro’s malaise continued as he looked sluggish and didn’t land enough first serves. Part of his play was the tremendous play of Berdych, and a couple of backhand winners secured a break in the first game for the Czech. While del Potro fought in Berdych’s service games, he could not muster any easy holds on his own serve, and the second set started to slip away as well as Berdych continued to hold. Berdych finished off the set by breaking del Potro to love, and the Argentine’s hopes were dimming as Berdych had captured the first two sets by identical 6-3 scores.
The third set was a fitting culmination to the match as del Potro had just absolutely nothing on his serve and was being out hit from the baseline at will. Berdych continued his very solid play, but it was clear that del Potro had nothing left and that there would be no miraculous comeback. While del Potro did save two match points and muster a late break to get to 3-5, the outcome was never in doubt as del Potro gave the break, and the match, right back with a double fault, a fitting capstone to an absolutely horrific day of serving for him.
Overall, Berdych played his best match in quite some time and he moves into the fourth round where he will play the flamboyant Fabio Fognini. Berdych’s offseason work has clearly paid off in this first major of the year, as he looks like a new man compared to the last couple years, and he will look to keep his run going in what should be a winnable match against the mercurial Italian.
Stay tuned to tennis-pulse for complete coverage of the Australian Open second week.