By John Delong
Tomas Berdych came to the Winston-Salem Open feeling a sense of urgency, after being uncharacteristically inconsistent much of the summer.
He faced even more urgency after losing the first set to Steve Darcis in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
But the second-seeded Czech never panicked, and instead roared back for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory. That moves him into Friday’s semifinals against seventh-seeded Sam Querrey, who beat fourth-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3) in the afternoon’s second match.
Berdych was pleased with the victory afterward, as he continued to build confidence and momentum going into next week’s US Open.
"I would say that so far I’m happy, not satisfied," he said. "But that means there is still more to play. I will be able to play one more and it would be nice to win both of them. I said at the beginning of the week, go step by step, so my next step is in the semifinal."
The World No. 7 defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Jarkko Nieminen in earlier rounds. He came to Winston-Salem having lost five of his previous seven matches, going out in the first round in both the London Olympics and Wimbledon. He won one match in Cincinnati last week, and that’s what prompted him to ask for a wildcard here.
"My last three years were really consistent and all of a sudden I had the results I had this summer, but that is the sport, that’s the way it is," he said. "I didn’t want to lose those matches but all of a sudden it just happened, and that’s probably why I’m here to play more and then get the confidence. I have to keep working hard because the train is going quite fast and you need to stay with it."
Berdych clearly stuck with it against Darcis, the World No. 81 who had beaten Andy Roddick in the third round on Wednesday. Berdych made several tactical changes after the first set, and wound up winning the last nine games of the match. He broke Darcis six straight time in one stretch.
"The way he started, he was playing really well, was not making any mistakes and serving well and playing smart," Berdych said. "So I needed to change something, and it worked. I stepped a little closer to the baseline, started to hit the ball faster to the bounce, and it just changed the whole rhythm. Then, you know, the opponent starts to move back and back and by the end he was close to the fans, which is the way I need to play with the guys."
Berdych said it may have actually helped him to face some adversity.
"The beginning was not good, and that probably helps you even more," he said. "You have a challenge that you are able to get from the beginning of the match and you are able to turn it around and start to play well and finish it. So I thought it was a really good test, and I’m looking forward to my next match."
Querrey gained revenge of sorts by beating Dolgopolov, after Dolgopolov beat Querrey in the semifinals at Washington earlier this summer.
Querrey had beaten Santiago Giraldo and Feliciano Lopez in earlier rounds.
"It’s exciting to be in the semifinals," Querrey said. "It feels good to get that win today. Tomorrow the matches are just going to get tougher, so I have to keep playing better if I want to keep winning. Berdych played well today, especially in the second and third sets, so it’ll be a tough one."
Ultimately, the match came down to a third-set tiebreaker, and Querrey was in command from the start. He opened with an ace, then got a mini-break on the third point when Dolgopolov was wide with a backhand. Dolgopolov challenged but lost as the ball was maybe an inch wide. Then Querrey went on to lead 5-1, and eventually ended the match with an overhead smash.
"I served really well," Querrey said. "Started out hit an ace wide, then he missed a backhand by an inch, and then my next service game I hit a good second serve that I hit another ace, and then the next thing you know it’s 4-1 and that just mentally for him and for me, it just changes things so much. I can start going for things a little more, he has to maybe play a little more tentative. A tiebreaker is just a point here, a point there, and when he missed that backhand wide that changed things."