Rome – three rounds + QFs
Tomas Berdych had lost 11 straight matches to Novak Djokovic, so when the Serb led 6-2 5:2 in their Rome quarterfinal, Berdych’s victory was actually beyond imagination. Yet this year, the Czech comes back from similarly difficult situations more often than anyone #. In the 9th game Djokovic was serving at 30/15 being two points away from the semifinal, but Berdych responded with three points won in a row and the match turned magically around. A break for Berdych in the 3rd game of the 3rd set was decisive, but serving for the match, Berdych choked a bit allowing his opponent to save a triple match point. At ‘deuce’ Berdych extended his service preparation, delivered a service winner followed by an ace, 2-6 7-5 6-4. “One day you have to break [the run] and I am happy that it was today,” said Berdych. “It was a great game and I am happy. I was trying to stay positive from the beginning. He didn’t give me a single chance. I was trying to stay there and there are matches when you don’t get a single chance, but then if you get one, then you are ready. Then everything could turn the other way and this is what happened.” Last week in Madrid, Rafael Nadal needed 2 hours 27 minutes to beat his compatriot David Ferrer, this time their encounter lasted 20 minutes longer, but Nadal wasn’t in serious danger like seven days before, notching a 6-4 4-6 6-2 victory that impreoves his H2H record vs. Ferrer to 19-4 – one of the most lopsided H2Hs in the Open era. Roger Federer saved a set point on return during his 6-4 7-6(2) win over Jerzy Janowicz and next meets Benoit Paire, a guy who is completely unexpected in a semifinal of such a big tournament. The 24-year-old Frenchman dismissed Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-0 in just 57 minutes in the first quarterfinal of the day (they’d played twice before at the main level, and both matches in straight sets won the Spaniard). Thanks to his amazing run in Rome, Paire will be seeded for the first time in a Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros.
A bit stronger line-up in Rome than last week in Madrid because Juan Martin del Potro entered the tournament after three weeks off. The Tandil Tower met fellow Argentine, the new Pope Francis. It didn’t help Del Potro – he was unexpectedly ousted in the third round by Benoit Paire , who had saved a match point in the second round (against Julien Benneteau) reaching quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 even for the first time in career. Marcel Granollers  became the second unheralded quarter-finalist, however, the Spaniard made this stage in Masters 1000 last year at the Canadian Open. The Spaniard was doing everything to slip away his chance to beat Andy Murray in the second round. After winning 1st set 6-3, Granollers led 4:1 in the 2nd set with a double break and *5:4 in the tie-break. The Scot (celebrated 26th birthday that day) leveled at one set apiece, but retired immediately after taking the tie-break due to back pain: “I pulled out because there is a good chance I wouldn’t be playing tomorrow. We’ll have to wait for Paris. I’d be very surprised if I were playing in Paris.” Seven year ago Murray defeated Granollers in Barcelona being a set and 1:4 down in the 2nd set (4-6, 6-4, 6-2). In the third round Granollers struggled past Jeremy Chardy, a man whom had also defeated reaching his previous big quarterfinal (Toronto ’12). Qualifier Ernests Gulbis displayed an awesome tennis in the 1st set of his third round match against Rafael Nadal. The Latvian (in the first round snapped Jarkko Nieminen‘s 9 tie-break winning streak) was a point away from bagelling the King of Clay! Nadal survived a break point at the beginning of the 2nd set and his patience paid off in the end. Gulbis was producing fantastic winners off both sides throughout, twice came back from a break down in losing sets, but when they stuck at two games from taking sets Nos. 2 & 3, Nadal’s experience and enormous fighting spirit prevailed. The final scoreline: 1-6 7-5 6-4; Nadal’s improved H2H vs. Gulbis to 6-0, but in five matches lost a set being four times quite close to lose another one, twice in Rome (previously in the 2010 semifinal). “I thought I was the better player in the match and also in the second and third sets but he is the champion,” said Gulbis. “I lost against him in Indian Wells when I also thought I played better than him. He is solid and he didn’t do anything special and I made mistakes and so he won.” Roger Federer showed up with a new haircut – his shortest in the XXI Century and very strong performances in two opening matches. In the quarterfinal he’ll face for the first time Jerzy Janowicz, who rediscovered his magic from Paris Bercy where he stunned the tennis world advancing to the final out of nowhere. The young Pole in two entertaining battles sent two Top 10 Frenchmen packing (Tsonga & Gasquet). Janowicz  ripped off his shirt in celebration after defeating Tsonga. Tomas Berdych for the fourth time this year ousted Kevin Anderson – they have met eight times in the last 18 months with Berdych as a winner every time.
# Berdych’s five wins in 2013 being a few points from a straight sets loss:
Dubai: Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 – 3 mp
Miami: Daniel Gimeno-Traver 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-2
Miami: Alejandro Falla 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 – 2 mp
Barcelona: Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 – 2 mp
Rome: Novak Djokovic 2-6, 7-5, 6-4
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