Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals

Ivan Pasquariello

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Novak Djokovic puts together a similar performance to the one that saw him lose in straight sets against Roger Federer on Thursday at the ATP World Tour Finals. A below par Djokovic is though enough to beat Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 in 1 hour and 29 minutes. The Serb was assured a place in the semis after winning the first set. Four of the top five ranked players on the ATP World Tour will play in the semi-finals.

 

 

He needed one set, one set only to be sure he would still keep his bid to win 4 consecutive championships at the ATP World Tour finals alive. No one has ever done it before, and Novak Djokovic’s run to tennis history is yet to come to a halt. After all, against a player like Tomas Berdych – whom he had beaten 2o times out of 22 – even a below par Djokovic was enough to sail through, securing at least one set.

Analysing the meaning of below par, even a World No.1 capable of only firing one single winner, to 8 unforced errors, was enough to win a set by 6 games to 3 against the World No.6. The truth is that Novak Djokovic was a dull copy of the player seen so far in the season, something much closer in its essence to the player who lost in straight sets to Roger Federer in London on Tuesday.

Unable to dictate the play, hardly moving as fast as we have seen him doing all year long, the first player to miss on a regular basis in 5-shot or more rallies, clearly the Serb is struggling to find his best self in London this year. After a brilliant performance against Nishikori in his debut match at the O2, Novak has hardly been himself again. Passive in his shot making, almost to the point where he doubts his weapons, the same ones that have let him dominate the tour almost unbeaten this year.

The slower surface of the O2 Arena should help the Serb create his “Spider Web” – as Federer likes to call it – but is surprisingly working as a counter-punch to the Serb’s consistency.

That said, even winning just 52% of the points on first serve, and a -7 differential between winners and unforced errors, only firing one single winner on his backhand throughout the entire match, having no baseline winners to his name in the first set, Novak has managed to find a way and win the match in straight sets.

Rather than a disappointing performance then, the Serb can see this victory as a blatant revelation of his superiority on the rest of the field in men’s tennis. Sure Berdych helped, once again falling victim of his nerves and melting like snow in the sun on the most important moments, once again unable to find the extra something he needs to take the lead against the top competitors in the sport.

Djokovic needed one set, and took two. The Serb may have lost his first match since August two days ago, his first indoor match in three years, but he still is in the game. Right after beating the World No.1, Roger Federer said: “I see Novak as the favourite to win still. He is going to do well against Berdych and then in the semis he will be the favourite to win the tournament again to me”.

And that same feeling spreads across tennis experts, fans and competitors. After all, Djokovic has built a mental invulnerability that tells him he can still find a way out even when things don’t look great, even if his tennis is not responding to the Robo-Nole commands.

Now the tournament presents the semis with 4 of the top 5 players competing. The Serb is the favourite, because when tournaments hit the latest stages, he tends to be the one finding that extra sparkle and fire to tore off the competition and finish on top.

It has been a recurring story this year on the tour. Now the Serb has to fight for history.

 

MATCH REPORT

 

Novak Djokovic (SRB) b. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

O2 Arena, London

RR Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

 

Head-2-Head = Djokovic leads 20-2

 

Qualification Outcomes

  • Berdych wins in 2 sets = Berdych advances to the semi-finals
  • Berdych wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 2 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals

 

THE FIRST SET

 

Djokovic breaks in the second game attacking to lead 2-0. In the third game, Berdych breaks back to trail 1-2.

 

The Serb has three chances to take the lead again, when Berdych misses an easy forehand long to go down 0-40. Berdych saves all three break points, one with a first serve and then firing two consecutive aces. The Czech challenges Djokovic’s backhand and surprisingly as the rallies grow longer, it is Tomas who gains the edge. Djokovic so far looks a very close version to the player who lost to Federer in straight sets. With another first serve, Berdych saves the game and holds to set the score tied at 2-2.

 

The Czech has another chance on Djokvovic’s serve up 15-30 after winning an impressive point at the net with a backhand volley winner. The World No.1 reacts right away to regain the lead in the game and the set, closing the game with a first serve. 3-2 Djokovic.

 

As the match continues in being a baseline battle, it is the Czech who seems more capable of finding aggressive solutions to win the rallies. Berdych is the first player to take control of the court, advances at the net at 40-30 and closes the game with a stunning backhand drop volley to set the score at 3-3.

 

So far in the match, Novak Djokovic has only hit one single winner and 7 unforced errors, compared to Berdyhc’s 10 winners and 10 unforced errors. Clearly the Serb isn’t playing at his best, but is enough to keep the lead in the set at 4-3.

 

As it happens many times, Berdych feels the nerves when the match gets closer to a deciding moment. The Czech from 30-15 hits first a forehand and then a backhand both just wide, to face a break point at 30-40. Tomas uses his first serve yet again to exit trouble. Djokovic however finds a sparkle of brilliance right when he needs it the most. The World No.1 attacks Berdych’s backhand to get another chance to break at 40-A. As a response, Tomas fires an ace, the 4th in the match, to get back to deuce. On the following point, Berdych kills a forehand in the net and Djokovic has his 3rd break point in the game. This time, the Serb breaks thanks to a terrible unforced error committed by the Czech. Berdych fires a strong first serve wide, but then decides to step on court and try to close the point with an airborne forehand which finishes in the net. Djokovic breaks and leads 5-3 to serve for the set.

 

Djokovic has his first set points up 40-15. While on the first the Serb hits a backhand long, on the second Berdych hits a backhand return long. Djokovic wins the set 6-3 in 42 minutes and mathematically secures his access to the semi-finals.

 

Djokovic closed the set with 1 winner and 8 unforced errors. Berdych with 12 winners and 18 unforced errors.

 

With Djokovic qualified, 4 of the first 5 players in the rankings reach the semi-finals in London.

 

THE SECOND SET

 

No matter the score in the set, the semi-finals are already decided in London for the Stan Smith group, with Federer advancing as first and Djokovic as second in the group.

 

The second set starts with 3 break point chances for Djokovic, who breaks at 30 and takes an early lead up 1-0. The Serb soon leads for 2-0 and it seems the match is heading towards the predicted finish.

 

Despite being virtually already out of the tournament, Berdych has a reaction of pure pride as he strikes full swing and breaks back to trail 1-2. The Czech continues to push the Serb and the service games of both players start to go away easyer. With Berdych holding serve to 30 in the 7th game (despite a stunning forehand return winner from Djokovic on 40-0) the Czech now leads 4-3.

 

Knowing there is not much more than pride at stake, the match fails to pull the strings of excitement. Both players manage to stay strong on their serve. Djokovic serves down 4-5, but wins the game with a forehand winner, his 10th winner in the match.

 

At 5-5, the World No.1 has a chance to close the match as he raises to 0-30 on Berdych’s serve. The Serb gets to triple break points at 0-40. On the first chance, Berdych catches the net on a backhand drop volley and the ball barely bounces in Djokovic’s half of the court. On his second chance, Djokovic attacks Berdych on the forehand, the Czech hits long and Novak closes the game to lead 6-5.

 

Djokovic serves for the match in the 12th game after 43 minutes since the start of the second set. The Serb gets to match point attacking with his forehand on Berdych’s backhand to lead 40-15 as Tomas hits a defensive slice wide. Djokovic closes out the contest with a first serve on which Berdych returns a chopped forehand in the net. Djokovic wins 6-3 7-5 after 1 hour and 29 minutes.

He advances to the semi-finals as second in the Stan Smith group, after Roger Federer.

Djokovic closes the second set with 9 winners and 8 unforced errors, finishing the match with 10 winners and 16 unforced errors. Berdych loses with 26 winners and 31 unforced errors to his name. The Czech has dominated the play, but has failed to win the most important points, yet again.

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(EXCLUSIVE) Former Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli On Why Tennis Needs Nick Kyrgios

The former world No.7 spoke to Ubitennis about the Australian star who has sensationally been charged with assault.

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Marion Bartoli (left) pictured at the 2022 Wimbledon Centre Court 100 year celebration - image https://twitter.com/bartoli_marion

Marion Bartoli believes tennis needs a ‘disruptor’ like Nick Kyrgios in order to break the trend of similar personalities on the Tour.

Bartoli, who won the 2013 Wimbledon title, spoke to Ubitennis during an hour-long media session that took place at The All England Club on Tuesday morning. A large talking point of the tournament so far has been the roller-coaster behavior of Kyrgios during two of his matches. In the first round, he was issued with a fine for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing with officials and spitting in front of some members of the crowd who were ‘disrespecting him.’ Then during a dramatic third round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, he once again argued with officials and even questioned why his opponent wasn’t defaulted from their match after hitting the ball into the stands.

The Australian is undoubtedly a divisive character. However, Bartoli believes that is exactly what tennis needs. 

 

“You either like him or you don’t. He will not make you feel middle ranged about him,” Bartoli tells Ubitennis.
“We need people like this in tennis. Some sort of disruptor with a different character. I don’t think it is good to have everyone acting the same way.’

“The limit is when you start to go against the umpire but he brings something new and different which is exciting for the game.”

Although not everybody has the same viewpoint. During his press conference on Saturday night, Tsitsipas stunned reporters when he branded his peer a bully due to his antics. Something Kyrgios denies. The Greek has also said he supports some sort of intervention to address the behavior of the world No.40 if such an opportunity occurs. 

“He said what he felt on the court and that’s fair. You just have to respect that,” Bartoli comments on Tsitsipas.
“At the end of the day we know what Nick is bringing to the court and it is not really surprising. It was almost as if Stefanos looked surprised by that which for me is something I wouldn’t have expected from him.”

Controversy aside, Kyrgios is looking to be a major danger in the tournament as long as his shoulder holds up. It is the first time he has reached the last eight of the tournament since 2014 after beating Brandon Nakashima in five sets on Monday. In his section of the draw, he faces unseeded Cristian Garin next, followed by a potential clash with Rafael Nadal. 

It was Kyrgios’ latest performance which has drawn praise from Bartoli.

“I think he has been doing extremely well this year, tennis-wise. He got a lot of confidence playing well on the grass before Wimbledon and he just loves the show,” she said.
“He loves the center stage and the way he played (against Nakashima) was brilliant. He didn’t go out way too much into his extreme where he would talk out loud all the time. It was just about his tennis. He’s always so exciting and he’s a great addition to the championships.“

As our discussion about the tennis star took place, sensational news broke that Kyrgios has been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The Canberra Times has reported that the assault took place last year and he is set to go to court next month. If he is found guilty, he could go to prison. 

Pick for the women’s final

As for the women’s draw, Bartoli has her money on two particular individuals. Although it is Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who she is tipping to win the title. The second seed is yet to contest a Grand Slam final in her career. 

Meanwhile, 2019 champion Simona Halep is gaining momentum in the tournament. After struggling with injury and confidence issues in recent months, the Romanian is yet to drop a set in four matches played. 

“Ons Jabeur is playing great tennis. She was my pick to win the Wimbledon title. I think Simona Halep has been extremely impressive, the way she won against Badosa was really quite something. Those two should be the ones going through to the final but in this year’s championship there have been so many upsets you never know.” Bartoli commented.

Bartoli is playing in the mixed-doubles legends draw at Wimbledon alongside Nenad Zimonjic. On Sunday she was one of many former champions to take part in a special ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Center Court. 

“It feels amazing. I get to be back on center court with my fellow other champions. That was definitely the highlight of my championships so far,” she said.
”To see roger, Rafa, Novak, etc, all the lineup of incredible champions, for me to be part of that group picture was something I would never forget.“
“Wimbledon is by far my favorite place in the world. For me, every year to wear my purple badge and walk through those gates is absolutely amazing.”

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Why Rafael Nadal Faces His Biggest Test Yet

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink joins UbiTennis to reflect on the highs and lows of day 8 of Wimbledon.

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Will the upcoming quarter-final be Rafael Nadal’s hardest match yet? How will Nick Kyrgios’ shoulder recover?

 

The second Monday at Wimbledon was one full of intrigue in the men’s draw. Whilst on the women’s side, Simona Halep was in impressive form against Paula Badosa but tennis commentator Flink explains why he thinks her upcoming clash with Amanda Anisimova will be tougher.

Alongside Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta, Flink also looks at Jannik Sinner’s chances of causing a huge upset against reigning champion Novak Djokovic. 

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WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Coy Over New Injury Speculation

After the foot problems in Paris, there is a strong possibility the Spaniard could be experiencing another injury issue.

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image via twitter.com/atp

There are fresh concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal after he declined to go into the reason why he was wearing abdominal taping during his fourth round match at Wimbledon. 

 

The 22-time Grand Slam winner was seen wearing some kind of protection in the abdominal area after changing his t-shirt during one of the breaks. In recent weeks Nadal has been dealing with physical issues due to a long-term foot condition he has. At the French Open he revealed that he had to undergo injections in order for him to continue playing en route to winning the tournament for a 14th time.

Playing 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, Nadal battled his way to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6), win. Speaking to reporters after his latest win at The All England Club, the Spaniard sidestepped a question about a potential abdominal problem he could be experiencing. 

“I am a little bit tired of talking about my body. It’s not that I don’t want to answer your question, but at the same time sometimes I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now,” he replied.
“I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Continuing to stay coy about his form and health, Nadal offered an alternative perspective when asked if he was nearing his best level once again. He has dropped just two sets in four matches played so far at Wimbledon which is his first grass-court event since 2019. 

“It’s always the same here. It’s not about how close I am to the level or not. I don’t know that. I can’t predict what can happen.” He said.
“But the positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good. Then two days ago I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the matches, again, at a very positive level.”

The straight sets scoreline failed to tell the true story of Nadal’s roller-coaster win on Center Court. Taking on Zandschulp, a player who burst onto the main scene last year by reaching the US Open quarter-finals as a qualifier, the 22-time major champion engaged in a match of two halves. Nadal looked on the verge of an easy victory after breaking once in the first set, twice in the second and storming to a 5-2 in the third. However, the Dutchman refused to go down without a fight by displaying his best tennis of the match to draw level. 

Now engaged in his first real test, Nadal was under intense pressure to close it out in three. If he didn’t there would have been an inevitable delay for the roof to come on due to poor light. If that occurred, there would be less than two hours of play left before the 11pm curfew began.

Nevertheless, Nadal didn’t need the roof as he squeezed through the tiebreaker. After squandering three consecutive match points, he prevailed on his fourth with the help of a lob that triggered Zandschulp to smash the ball out. 

Nadal is through to his 47th major quarter-final and is only the third man in the Open Era to do so at Wimbledon after celebrating his 36th birthday. In total, he has won 309 main draw matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

In the last eight, the Spaniard has a shot of revenge when he takes on Taylor Fritz who ended his 20-match winning streak earlier this year in Indian Wells. During that match, Nadal had a rib injury and he had beaten the American earlier that month in Mexico. 

“That last match (in Indian Wells) was zero because I had a stress fracture on my rib, and it was difficult to learn many things because the pain was terrible playing that match.” He said. 

As for Fritz, he believes their upcoming clash will be at a higher standard given the form both players are currently in. Fritz is currently on a eight-match winning streak after recently claiming the Eastbourne Open title. 

“It’s going to be a lot different match obviously. Indian Wells was kind of crazy with both of us being extremely beaten up before the final. This time I think we’ll get healthier versions of both of us, we’ll see.” Fritz previewed.

The question for nadal, is how healthy is the current version of him really is? Only time will tell. 

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