World No.6 Tomas Berdych had few troubles advancing to the second round of Australian Open 2013, downing American journeyman Michael Russell 6-3 7-5 6-3 on Monday.
Berdych, who is making his 10th consecutive appearance at Melbourne Park and is playing his 38th straight Grand Slam, only dropped two service games and made the most of his opportunities to help get him over the line against his 34-year-old opponent.
It was a sound start to the tournament for the Czech, who has made the quarterfinals in his past two appearances at the Australian Open and is looking to break the stranglehold the ‘big four’ of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have had over the major titles in recent years.
After his win, the fifth seed modestly summarised his performance as “quite alright”, and said he was just pleased to be able to ease back into the five-set format.
“You know, he (Russell) is a really tough opponent, and especially (with) the conditions today, it was even tougher,” Berdych said.
“I mean, it was three sets (and) I was able to get the rhythm to play again for the three sets. Not to stay that long on court (was also) a positive.”
Despite his underdog status and the 88 places separating him and Berdych in the rankings, Russell was the more composed player early but struggled to win the big points.
The world No.94 American was presented with a golden opportunity to go up a break at 3-2 in the opening set, but the fifth-seeded Czech kept calm and served his way out of trouble to level the score at 3-3.
The near-break scare seemed to spur Berdych, however, who stepped up his intensity from the back of the court and began to fire groundstrokes with a ferocity that was too much for the American to handle.
Berdych routinely took advantage of his opportunities when they arose, converting two of three break points compared to Russell’s zero, and won the opener 6-3.
With scores locked at 5-5 in the second set, Berdych used his booming first serve – at one stage clocking 215km/h – to go ahead 6-5, winning the game in style with a huge serve down the middle to which Russell swung at and missed. Berdych then immediately broke Russell - one of his six breaks for the match - and claimed the second set 7-5.
From there, the Czech was just too strong, blasting 12 winners to Russell’s two and using his work ethic to take out the third set 6-3 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Berdych will play Frenchman Guillaume Rufin on Wednesday.