Tomas Berdych is a serial Australian Open quarterfinalist who has now reached the last eight for the seventh time. This is the Grand Slam where the 32-year-old Czech has won more matches and gone further, more often, than any other.
Monday’s opponent was Fabio Fognini, and if nothing is ever strictly routine against the volcanic Italian, than a 6-1 6-4 6-4 result was about as close as it gets.
“He’s a very tough opponent, you never know what’s gonna come up,’’ said Berdych after the two-and-a-bit hour match. “He can always come from the back with amazing shots and turn the match around, so being very focused from the start, that’s the best thing I could (have) done today.’’
Clearly relishing his return to Margaret Court Arena, where memories are fond, Berdych was enjoying the far more pleasant weather conditions than those endured late in week one. “I’m feeling good, healthy, so I think I’m on the best baseline I can be.’’
That was not the case last year, when Berdych was troubled by a lower back injury that eventually prompted him to cut his season short.
"That was not really nice times, because really, basically last year was really a tough one. Beginning was nothing really special, then already the problems with my lower back started. I managed to get healthy for the grass and for Wimbledon. Played well. After, the problems came back.
"So I was basically about one month of the season which I played well, and that was a bit frustrating. After, when I took decision just to stop and get myself back in the shape and get healthy, then I get a little bit more time. Finally I get good time for off-season and preparation, and now is everything paying off.
"I'm glad to be back in the shape that I am right now, which is finally healthy and that makes the difference. I can play freely and I can have joy from the tennis. I can enjoy the time being on court. Yeah, the results are coming with that.''
Berdych is also a frequent flyer into the path of Roger Federer, and the world No.20 was expecting yet another rematch with the No.2 he so famously beat en route to the 2010 Wimbledon final but trails 6-19 overall. When it was mentioned to Berdych post-match that he would meet either Federer or Marton Fucsovics on Wednesday, he complimented the interviewer on his optimism on the Hungarian’s behalf.
Now ranked considerably below his career peak of No.4 just over two years ago, Berdych has made a fine living for being very, very good at what he does, without being quite good enough to win a singles major in an era ridiculously well-stocked with some of the best men ever to have played the game.
This time, the seven-time major semi-finalist is moving reasonably comfortably through the men’s draw, dropping sets to young Australian Alex De Minaur and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez before a surprisingly decisive defeat of Juan Martin del Potro in round three.
Fognini twice called for the trainer early in the match to treat his strapped left leg and surrendered rather tamely in the end, able to win less than half of his first-serve points and convert just two of nine break points. He was profligate with his Hawk-Eye challenges and generous with his unforced errors (32 to Berdych’s 20).
There were also a few exchanges with chair umpire James Keothavong and flashes of brilliance, typically, as the 25th seed broke back to level the third set when it seemed Berdych had begun to coast towards the finish line.
But the consistent Czech veteran crossed it safely enough, to get back to where he so often has. The quarterfinals. Again. The winner of 13 career titles is unsure how long he will continue to play, but is confident he will know the right time to depart.
"As long as I'm healthy, then I think I can be still competitive way enough, which this one proves me that 100 per cent,'' Berdych said.
"So as long as I'm able to keep myself really fit, then I'm going to go as far as I can. I don't put any goals or any predictions if it's gonna be a year, two, or if it's going to be after what I'm achieved or not or things like that.
"Really, my basic thing is or basic goal is just to have fun. Just to have joy from the tennis. If one day I'm going to wake up and I say, 'all right, that's it', then that's it."