There wasn’t a seat to be had at a packed Margaret Court Arena on Sunday as fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych reached his third consecutive Australian Open quarterfinal.
Initially, it looked as if the match was going to be a breeze for Berdych, but 31st-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa staged a feisty battle in the third set. Unfortunately for Anderson, his surge came a bit too late, and Berdych secured the victory in an exciting tiebreaker for a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (13) win.
Berdych, who was instrumental in the Czech Republic’s 2012 Davis Cup victory, has moved into the quarterfinals without dropping a set in the four matches he’s played.
“I am playing only three sets every single match so I’ve been able to save some energy,” said Berdych, to an enthusiastically cheering crowd after the match.
Of course, going beyond the quarterfinals for the first time here won’t be easy for Berdych, who will play either two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has three overall Australian Open trophies, or 15th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
In last year’s quarterfinal, Berdych fell to eventual finalist Rafael Nadal. In the 2011 quarterfinal, Berdych was shipped home by Djokovic.
But before Berdych needs to look forward, he can look back on his two-hour, 44-minute victory over Anderson and savour the moment.
The match was all about the third set tiebreaker, which kept fans on the edge of their seats. By this point in the match, both players were in attack mode, Berdych desperate to seal the deal and Anderson hoping to push the match into a fourth set.
Anderson had five set points in the breaker, all on Berdych’s serve. Berdych had five match points in the breaker and finally prevailed when Anderson, serving at 13-14, hit a forehand beyond the baseline. As soon as the ball landed, Berdych was pumping his fist in victory, but Anderson chose to challenge the call. Hawkeye, however, confirmed the ball was long, and Berdych quickly resumed his celebration.
“The tiebreak, I was probably a bit luckier,” Berdych said.
“I had chances through the third set, but tennis isn’t finished until the last point.”
Berdych, indeed, had earlier advantages in the third set with a 2-0 lead, but Anderson was able to break back in the third game.
The result improved Berdych’s head-to-head against Anderson to a perfect 5-0. Their four previous matches all took place last year -- the first in the Australian Open third round -- and Anderson has only won three sets in the 16 sets they’ve played.
Berdych has advanced to at least the semifinals at the three other Grand Slams, and his best result at a major was a final berth at Wimbledon 2010. Armed with a glass half-full vision of life, Berdych is hoping that he’ll step things up at Melbourne Park this year and at least make the semifinals.
“Every single day you discover something new,” Berdych said.
“Every time that you just wake up, it's gonna be something new.”