Editor’s Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing articles to bring fans closer to their favourite players. This story was originally published on 30 March 2017.
Roger Federer held off a streaky Tomas Berdych on Thursday at the Miami Open presented by Itau, saving two match points to reach the semi-finals 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6).
“I’ve had some tough losses here where I should have won, like against Tomas a few years ago and also against Nishikori, and they stay with you. I’m happy to come have through today,” Federer told ESPN after the match. “I definitely got very lucky at the end, but I think I showed great heart today. I fought and Tomas definitely started to step it up, but it was a great match at the end.”
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Federer hadn’t saved a match point en route to victory since erasing three in coming back from two sets down to defeat Marin Cilic in the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finals. The Swiss maestro moves to 17-1 in 2017, his best start to a season since 2006, and has now won seven straight tie-breaks. Federer is through to his seventh semi-final in Miami and first since 2011.
The fifth seed will play 12th seed Nick Kyrgios for a place in Sunday’s final. Kyrgios leads the FedEx ATPHead2Head with Federer 1-0, prevailing on the clay courts of Madrid in 2015 in a third-set tie-break.
“They like the big stage and the belief they have makes them tough to play in any given match,” said Federer of Kyrgios and other rising stars on the ATP World Tour. “The question with those guys coming up is what can they bring every single day? How is the mind and the body coping through the newer stress for them that they’re experiencing? Some weeks you feel great, some weeks you don’t feel so good. That’s normal when you’re younger and still trying to figure everything out, what their best surface is, how they need to play against certain player types.”
Coming into the quarter-finals, Berdych had dropped serve just once in the tournament. But, putting just one of six first serves into play, the Czech was broken in the opening game of the match. In contrast, Federer fought off a break point in the second game. He held serve throughout and broke Berdych again at 4-2 to put the set beyond doubt.
Berdych regrouped in the second set and took advantage of a loose Federer service game to go ahead 5-3 and soon after snapped his streak of 15 lost sets to Federer to take the match to a decider.
Little separated both players in the early stages of the third set, but a pair of forehand errors from Berdych gifted Federer a break to lead 4-2. The fifth seed was shockingly broken at love attempting to serve out the match at 5-3 and couldn’t convert on a match point at 5-4 after Berdych erased it with a gutsy 120mph second serve down the T to Federer’s forehand.
Federer trailed 4/6 in the third-set tie-break, but Berdych missed his opportunities with a backhand unforced error and a forehand into the net. A double fault from Berdych at 6/7 wrapped up the match after one hour and 57 minutes. Federer improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head against Berdych to 18-6 and has won their past seven matches.
“I guess you get better over time handling pressure. Then you have to be careful as you grow older not to play too conservatively when it matters. You start playing percentages way too much when you get older because you’ve seen too many times what can happen,” said Federer. “Sometimes when you have that young mind you just go for it, and that’s when great things do happen. For me, it’s always a balance between playing the percentages, yet playing free and young in the mind.”
Federer has not tasted success in Miami since 2006, when he completed the Indian Wells-Miami title double for the second consecutive year.
Despite the loss, Berdych said there were still plenty of positives to take from his fortnight in Miami.
“I’ve done quite a bit of work in between Indian Wells and now and I think that’s showing here, which is important,” said Berdych. “I think this was just the very beginning. The beginning of the year has slipped a bit for me, but I think the season is long, and I think whoever is going to come fresh and strong for the second part of it is going to be very dangerous.”