Djokovic survives test from Berdych

BY foxsports • November 21, 2011

After another cliffhanger that held the crowd of 17,500 enthralled, it was mental strength and knowing how to win that enabled Novak Djokovic to return to his winning ways Monday, as he saved match point before beating Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the ATP World Finals at London’s 02 Arena.

The previous evening Mardy Fish had played some terrific tennis against Rafael Nadal before his forehand let him down as the match headed for the deciding tiebreak. This encounter was almost a replica except for the fact that Berdych played marginally better than Fish and got closer — two points away from victory at 5-4 in the third and then the match point at 6-5.

Possibly trying to emulate the brilliant off forehand that had clipped the line two points earlier, Berdych dumped the ball into the net. You couldn’t say it was nerves because he was going for the shot like he had gone for so many during the match with such success. It was just that when it really mattered, he missed.

“Maybe I was being too risky,” he said. “But that’s how I play. I had a break in the third. I had that match point. I’m very disappointed but now I have to get rid of this feeling and get ready for Wednesday.”

Djokovic acknowledged that Berdych probably had played the best tennis over the whole match. “But when I was presented with some chances, I took them,” he said. That’s why the Serb is No. 1 in the world and has won 70 matches, three Grand Slams and a record five ATP Masters 1000 titles in 2011. It’s about taking chances.

“I wasn’t very satisfied with my performance,” Djokovic said. “He made a lot of pressure on my serve, especially my second serve. He was stepping in. I went back. I was too passive. Then on match point he made a mistake and I was back in the match.”

From then on it was a question of the Czech forehand unraveling, with four mistakes on that flank allowing Djokovic to sweep to a 5-1 lead in the breaker. He eventually took it 7-3.

Most encouraging for the Serb was the fact that his shoulder was free of pain and that he appears to have gotten rid of the physical problems that have afflicted him since he won the US Open. With this victory under his belt it would seem that his form can only improve, and that is ominous for the other players in his round-robin group, including David Ferrer and Andy Murray. Djokovic will play Ferrer on Wednesday while Murray faces Berdych, who beat him 10 days ago in Paris.

Earlier in the evening Mike and Bob Bryan staged a great fight back from a set and 3-5 down to beat Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner 6-7, 7-5, 10-7. It was the American twins’ fifth consecutive victory over the Austro-German combo and included, to the delight of the huge crowd, a winning between-the-legs shot from Bob.

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