Australian Open SF preview and pick: Murray vs. Berdych

Berdych winsA somewhat surprising semifinal in the season’s first Grand Slam will pit Andy Murray against Tomas Berdych on Thursday. Murray is bidding for a fourth career appearance in the title match of this event.

In an era of the not-too-distant past, the draw we saw this fortnight almost certainly would have produced a Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal semifinal. Not anymore. Thursday’s Australian Open men’s singles battle will feature Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych.

The familiar foes will be squaring off for the 11th time in their careers. Berdych has pulled ahead in the head-to-head series 6-4 by erasing a two-match losing streak with a pair of 2013 victories: 7-6(3), 6-4 on the clay courts of Madrid and 6-3, 6-4 during the U.S. Open Series in Cincinnati. Murray has won four of their seven meetings on either hard courts or carpet and they have split two Grand Slam encounters (Berdych rolled at the 2010 French Open; Murray prevailed in four sets at the 2012 U.S. Open).

Both men are off to outstanding starts to their 2015 campaigns, setting the stage for what should be a scintillating semifinal showdown. Berdych, who finished runner-up in Doha earlier this month, has been arguably the most dominant performer of this tournament. The seventh-ranked Czech cruised past Alejandro Falla, Jurgen Melzer, Viktor Troicki, and Bernard Tomic before upsetting nemesis Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5) in the quarters.

Murray, who did not play any ATP tuneup events, dropped only one set on his trek to the last four. The sixth-seeded Scot needed four to get past Grigor Dimitrov but otherwise made quick work of Yuki Bhambri, Marinko Matosevic, Joao Sousa, and Nick Kyrgios. A three-time runner-up in Melbourne, Murray is looking for his fourth final appearance in the past six years.

“It’s nice to be in the latter stages of a slam again,” said the two-time major champion, who is now through to a semifinal for the second time in six slams. “I’m happy with that…. I made improvements with each of the matches.”

Murray may have to raise his level yet again to counter a red-hot opponent who happens to have the Scot’s former coach in his corner. Thus another interesting dynamic is added to this matchup, with Dani Vallverdu now coaching Berdych.

“Definitely it might be an advantage for us,” Berdych commented. “What is more important is to be prepared for that match, to be ready, to set up the plan, and try to execute on the court. Really the preparation is exactly the same like for all my past opponents so far here. I’m not going to change anything.”

Nor should he change anything. However, the same tactics that worked so effectively against Nadal will not do similar wonders versus Murray. The world No. 6 can better neutralize Berdych’s serve out wide in the deuce court, whereas the Spaniard was forced to hit meek backhand returns that landed short and got pummeled. Berdych will still be on the offensive for the most part in this match, but not to the same extent that he was in the quarterfinals.

Pick: Murray in 5

38 Comments on Australian Open SF preview and pick: Murray vs. Berdych

  1. I think Murray is going to get the win. I can see the match going four or five sets, because Berdy is playing extremely well. It should be a good one, since both guys are in good form right now.

    • agreed…this will be tight but I am also giving the edge to Murray . He just has to avoid falling into those pitfalls of cursing himself too much and getting tentative on big points. He got blown away by wawrinka in USO 13 and big hitting against a tentative murray spells trouble. But I think he will be fine as he is playing great tennis after a long time. And kyrgios was a good practice of returning some really flat shots 😉

  2. Going for a Murray win but I think it could be a real struggle. I think Berdych will win set 1 6-4 or something like that, then Murray will get sets 2 and 3 7-5 6-2 then set 4 will go to a tiebreak and if Murray drops his focus it will go five if not he will win in 4. If it goes 5, Murray wins set 6-3 or 6-4. Score prediction – Murray 4-6 7-5 6-2 6-7 6-4. Come on Murray

  3. Berdych who?? You don’t get bagelled in the semi-finals of the GS and then expect to have any chance to win the title…this is such a disaster…

    • Fedfans were in full flight on the net when Berdy bagelled Rafa. Deafening silence so far from them now that Berdy himself got bagelled.

      I wonder why?

  4. Berdych’s performance in this match shows that nothing has changed. He look good because Rafa wasn’t able to compete, but he is the same old Berdy.

  5. Congrats to Andy. I saw the last set and a half. He seems lately to be not only back from recovery but the tennis player he can be. Great to see.

    Sunday should be very exciting if this Andy shows up again (he will). Unless it is standinka in the final (it won’t be) in which case 50/50 it might be an exciting match or 50/50 standinka gets outplayed.

  6. congrats to Amelie!! I am 100% behind Andy to win this whole thing. Didn’t watch the match…was there a lot of animosity between the two? The look on Berdy on the Vine Ricky posted…yikes!

  7. Well done muzz. Big Bird never on like list … ever since he refused to shake hands with Almagro AFTER BEATING HIM.

    • oh…forgot about that incident. I just remember him shushing the pro-rafa crowd in Madrid. …and yes, Andy has to win this! If he does, he will just need to win RG and he will have the “career slam!” 🙂 heh.

  8. Thought muzz did great to turn it around after that first set when BB looked so strong. This whole tournament, muzz could have filled an amazing highlights reel already. Playing with such flair and aggression, really loving it:-)

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