Welcome to a live edition of How the Match Was Won! Today we have Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, the Czech with an opportunity to clinch the 2012 Davis Cup for his home country.
World No. 6 Tomas Berdych and World No. 5 David Ferrer haven’t played very often against each other in recent years. Here’s how their head to head stands right now:
The last time they played, Berdych beat a scorching hot Ferrer (coming off two huge wins over Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) in three sets at the 2011 World Tour Finals.
Aside from that match, plus a 2010 Ferrer win in Kuala Lumpur, the bulk of their matches against each other came in 2007 or earlier. So their history isn’t extremely helpful in predicting how this match will go.
Here’s what we know:
1. Ferrer is having his best career year. Having played 90 matches already, the Spaniard is 75-15 on the year, and has won an ATP-best seven titles.
2. Berdych is probably tired. He was pushed to five sets by Nicolas Almagro on Friday. He and Radek Stepanek propelled themselves to a four set win in the doubles rubber against the World Tour Finals champion doubles team of Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers. So despite fatigue, Berdych can take confidence into this match, knowing that he’s already gutted out two huge wins to put the Czech Republic in striking distance of their first Davis Cup title since 1980.
3. Berdych can’t play this match on Ferrer’s terms if he hopes to win. The World No. 5 will be looking to grind out a victory by extending rallies to take advantage of the tired Czech. Berdych will have to make things happen for himself rather than sitting back and trying to force Ferrer into making mistakes. That strategy rarely works for anyone against Ferrer, and it will be even less effective in this match, knowing that Ferrer will be the fresher player.
4. This is a pivotal career moment for both players. For Ferrer, it’s a chance to prove himself a worthy leader of the Spanish Davis Cup team in Rafael Nadal’s absence. For Berdych, it’s a chance to prove the tennis community wrong, after years of questioning his mental fortitude.
So buckle up your seat belts. Hopefully we’re in for a wild ride.
Ferrer wins the toss, and elects to serve. He holds at love for 1-0.
Berdych gets broken immediately for 0-2. Ferrer is already making him run quite a bit. Ferrer holds again at love for 3-0. Berdych has yet to win a point on Ferrer’s serve.
A couple of big serves and more precise depth in longer rallies helps Berdych get on the board for 1-3.
Ferrer holds after some minor pressure from Berdych on serve.
Ferrer hits a ridiculous backhand down-the-line winner on what should have been a Berdych winner. He follows it up with an outrageous passing shot to get to 15-40 on Berdych’s serve. Two more chances to break for 5-1.
Berdych stops the bleeding. He saves both break points and holds for 2-4.
Out of nowhere come two break back points for Berdych. As quick as they came, they disappear. Ferrer hits another outrageous backhand down-the-line winner to save the second one. Berdych hits a backhand down-the-line of his own to earn a third break point. And pushes a forehand rally shot wide. Ferrer holds for 5-2.
Not a good game from Berdych. He is broken by Ferrer for 2-6. Ferrer will get the chance to serve first in the second set — not something that bodes well for the Czech.
First set stats:
Berdych saves another break point in his first service game of the second set with a huge serve. But Ferrer breaks anyway. No matter what Berdych is sending over to Ferrer’s side of the net, the Spaniard is sending back with interest. He holds at love for 3-0, and it’s looking like Berdych will continue to get steamrolled.
On the Tennis Channel, as Ferrer eats a banana during the changeover, Justin Gimelstob proclaims that Ferrer is “chomping down that banana like he’s chomping down the man from the Czech Republic.”
Berdych holds easily for 1-3 — not something that can be said for the Czech much today. If he wants to stay in the match, he’ll have to have more games like that, in which he holds by virtue of getting free points on serve.
From 0-30, Ferrer holds for 4-1. It’s like deja vu from the first set. Berdych’s frustration level is rising steadily, as it should be.
Berdych holds for 2-4. I think I saw this movie before. The Tennis Channel’s commentating team of Gimelstob and Andrew Catalon agree that Berdych needs to hit more aces. Yes, that would help.
Another easy hold for Ferrer for 5-2. This time, Berdych changes the course of the set from what happened in the first, managing a hold from 0-30 down at 2-5. He will make Ferrer serve out the set.
And serve it out Ferrer does. He leads by two sets to love, 6-2, 6-3. Small consolation for Berdych: he will get to serve first in the third set.
Second set stats:
Berdych and Ferrer both hold for 1-all.
Summing up Berdych’s day so far:
He’s just randomly flailing now.
— Zafar (@hypotemuse) November 18, 2012
Ferrer breaks for 2-1 on an insane forehand return winner. This could be over quickly.
The last time these two played Ferrer could only win 15% of points against Berdych’s first serve,today it’s nearly 40%,5th rubber on way..
— Nick Lester (@nicklester) November 18, 2012
Another break point at 2-4 for Ferrer. Berdych fights it off with an ace — word has it those are good! He holds for 3-4, but Ferrer is still up the necessary break.
Berdych breaks back for 4-all! Sadly, I didn’t get to see it, as the Tennis Channel randomly cut away to stock footage of statues in the Czech Republic due to “technical difficulties.”
Berdych earns break point, Tennis Channel cuts away to shot of old Czech man in a fishing boat as Berdych converts. Not ideal. #daviscup
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 18, 2012
I like the shots of Prague Tennis Channel is showing during the technical difficulties. Especially ‘Melancholy fisherman in rain gear.’
— Mariya Konovalova (@MariyaKTennis) November 18, 2012
Berdych has suddenly and surprisingly wrestled control from Ferrer of the set. It came out of nowhere. He holds for 5-4, the first time he’s had a lead in the entire match. Can he break Ferrer’s serve again?
Ferrer will have none of that. He holds at love.
Berdych plays some incredibly boneheaded points at the net to go down 15-40. He’s 8/20 at the net so far in the match, so he should probably stop doing that.
Berdych’s resurgence was short-lived. Ferrer breaks for 6-5 on a return that Berdych was convinced was wide. Ferrer will serve for the match.
And he serves it out at love. Ferrer beats Berdych, 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. Berdych was never really in the match. Ferrer delivered a commanding performance from start to finish.
In retrospect, the Czech Republic staked everything on the doubles rubber. If they hadn’t used Berdych for that, the Czech Republic probably would’ve been down 2-1 going into Sunday. And there was no guarantee a fresher Berdych would have beaten Ferrer. In fact, the way Ferrer played today, it was unlikely.
Full match stats:
The Davis Cup final will come down to a deciding rubber between Radek Stepanek and Nicolas “Weak Link” Almagro. You can follow along with all the action here.