Tennis-Flying Berdych has Djokovic in his sights

Thu, 01 Jul 17:39:00 2010

After slaying tennis' very own Goliath, Czech giant Tomas Berdych will re-load the slingshot when he faces Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-final on Friday. The elegant baseline pounder, who stands at an imposing 1.96 metres tall, is now on the brink of a maiden grand slam final having torn apart Roger Federer with a formidable barrage of groundstrokes that rocked the Swiss maestro.

The six-times champion, battered and bruised, trudged off Centre Court, then struggled to find the words to explain why he had been so comprehensively dismantled by a man who in six previous appearances at Wimbledon had only once reached the quarter-final.

Berdych, at 24, is the oldest of the four semi-finalists and the only one to have never reached a grand slam final, but he is a man in form.

He pummelled his way through to the French Open semi-final, beating potential Wimbledon final opponent Andy Murray on his way, before eventually losing in five sets to runner-up Robin Soderling.

"First of all, you win a couple of matches at the beginning of the year and then you get confidence, it keeps going and going," he said after Wednesday's match.

"It's not only about the last two weeks. It started in the United States, Indian Wells, Miami. So it's quite far ago.

"You get more and more experience. I am a little bit older, more focused, mentally stronger than before. That's what you need."

After being taken to five sets by Olivier Rochus under the beaming lights of the Centre Court roof in the first round, third seed Djokovic has raced through to the semi-finals with the minimum of fuss.

Lleyton Hewitt nicked a solitary set in an otherwise comfortable victory for the Serb in round four, while Lu Yen-hsun, the Taiwanese chicken farmer's son who knocked out last year's runner-up Andy Roddick, was put to the sword for the loss of just seven games.

With Federer making an unexpected exit, Djokovic knows the opportunity of adding another grand slam to the Australian Open crown he won in 2008 has never been better.

"We all know Roger always plays his best tennis at the end of the tournament," he said.

"It is definitely more pressure and a bigger challenge playing against him in the semis.

"But still, Berdych is the player who won against Roger in four sets. We cannot forget that. He's going to go for the shots. I think he does not have much to lose. He's going to be motivated. So there are no favourites."

Djokovic, who is the only one of the semi-finalists to have never won a grass court title, reached this stage in 2007 before retiring with blisters midway through his match with Rafa Nadal.

It is not an experience he is keen to repeat.

"It was a very different situation back then. I was less experienced and I wasn't as fit as I am today," he said.

"I had to play three matches in three days, very exhausting matches. When I got to the semi-final stage, I wasn't ready for that.

"But this time I'm ready mentally and physically and cannot wait to get on the court."

Whoever emerges triumphant will face the winner of Friday's other semi-final clash between Britain's Murray and 2008 champion Nadal.

(Editing by Miles Evans)


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