Ruthless Nadal gives Berd bath

Match Report

Rafael Nadal was at his brilliant, brutal best as he routed former Australian Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych 6-0 6-1 7-6(4) to book his place in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the 11th time.

The 2009 champion claimed the first nine games of the match against the world No.57 with a near-flawless first two sets and, while Berdych raised his game to stay with Nadal in the third, he could not halt the Spaniard – who will now face unseeded American Frances Tiafoe for a place in the semifinals.

Berdych v Nadal R4

Video

“He had one of these days where he wasn’t on his game,” said Nadal, having wrapped up victory in two hours and five minutes as his return to form after ankle surgery in 2018 gathers pace. “I expected in the third set that he would push me, and he had his chances, even had a set point. That was a very real set, more than the first two, and I’m very happy to be in the quarterfinals again.

“I always say the same – when I am back from injuries, I don’t expect anything. I just try to do my work every day and be with the right attitude every single day. When you are back, you need a bit of luck at the beginning, because the first couple of matches are important, and I won them. Now we’re in the quarterfinals, so we’ll see what happens now.”

From that point on, the 33-year-old had the best seat in the house for an hour-long Nadal masterclass
Berdych simply had no answers to Nadal's brutality

It was a scoreline that did all but draw blood from Berdych, whose return to the Grand Slam scene after a career-threatening back injury had turned heads here in Melbourne with wins over Kyle Edmund and Diego Schwartzman. But he was no match for Nadal, becoming the fourth player – after Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer – to lose to the Spaniard 20 times.

Only 11 players have ever taken a love-set from Nadal in his 1011-match professional career. Berdych counts among them, serving the Spaniard his bagel during his straight-sets quarterfinal win at Australian Open 2015.

Strange to think that, after playing each other at least once per year between 2005 and 2015, this was the duo’s first meeting in almost four years. But if that bagel was still weighing on Nadal’s mind, he made amends with interest at the start of the fourth-round clash.

What difference the break point spurned by Berdych in the opening game might have made became more academic with each passing game. From that point on, the 33-year-old had the best seat in the house for an hour-long Nadal masterclass, paying the heaviest of prices for some wretched serving.

MORE: AO2019 men’s singles results

The Czech made just six of his 16 first deliveries, not that it made much difference which serve found the box, winning two points apiece on his first and second serve by the time his own bagel was served. Nadal wasn’t done there, rattling off nine successive games before Berdych bothered the scoreboard, raising a fist as relieved applause broke out around Rod Laver Arena having held for 1-3. 

Nadal didn’t let up, however, breaking once more to seal the two-set lead. But credit Berdych for holding his own in the third, staying with the Spaniard for the first 11 games and even bringing up set point on the Nadal serve before leading 4-3 in the ensuing tiebreak.

But the 17-time Grand Slam champion stepped it up when it mattered, hammering his 31st winner, a forehand down the line, to reach match point before Berdych dumped one final backhand into the net, the Czechs 30th error, to seal his exit.

Nadal has never faced Tiafoe, but is relishing the prospect of facing the American tyro, who beat Grigor Dimitrov on his 21st birthday to reach the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time.

pattern
Points won
95 Rafael Nadal
64 Tomas Berdych

“He’s playing great – he won a couple of great matches, he’s super-quick, and he’s able to change direction fast,” Nadal said. “He comes to the net, and he has a huge forehand and serve. 

“It’s always special when you meet an opponent for the first time, and in the quarterfinals there is only one way to play – very well.”