Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Nadal beats Berdych to make semis

CZECH CHECKED The Spaniard overcame difficult windy conditions and an opponent who had triumphed in a pre-Wimbledon warmup tournament to make the last four

AGENCIES , WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

Serbia's Ana Ivanovic acknowledges the crowd after defeating Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic at Wimbledon on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

Rafael Nadal was back to his best yesterday, playing at Wimbledon for the fifth consecutive day and reaching the semi-finals by beating No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-2.

Nadal, last year's runner-up, was broken once early in the first set, but never faced any serious challenges after that.

Nadal had his first match point on Berdych's serve at 5-1 in the third set, but the Czech erased it with an ace. Nadal wasted another in the next game, but won when Berdych sent a forehand into the net.

"I had to concentrate with the movement because the ball was very difficult to touch," Nadal said. "Today was very tough with the wind, but anyway I played very good."

Nadal, who had come from two five-set victories including a rain-hit third-round match that spanned three days, turned on the power as soon as the first set went into a tiebreak, going 5-0 up before clinching it 7-1 after 58 minutes.

The Spaniard, showing the sort of grasscourt tennis that helped him recover from two sets down in Thursday's fourth round win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny, was in almost total control from then on.

He was not afraid to come to the net where he put away 14 out of 16 volleys and broke Berdych in the opening games of each of the next two sets and again in the fifth game of the decider.

Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year's final, is trying to become the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980. The Spaniard has won the last three titles at Roland Garros.

Berdych was playing in the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam for the first time. He won the grass-court warm-up tournament in Halle, Germany, in the absence of Federer, but struggled yesterday with several bad hops. In the final game, a serve from Nadal took another awkward bounce that went toward his body.

In yesterday's women's semi-finals, Venus Williams was due to face French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic, the No. 6-seeded Serb, who saved three match points to get past No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

"Coming in here, I didn't expect this," the 19-year-old Ivanovic said. "Venus is a great player. She is playing so good the last couple of matches. It's going to be very tough for me."

Serving while down 5-3 in the final set, Ivanovic faced match point three times. She saved the first with a big forehand into a corner that forced an errant forehand from Vaidisova, and the second with a clean forehand winner. On the third, Vaidisova dumped a return into the net, beginning a stretch in which Ivanovic won 13 of 15 points thanks to aggressive play.

"I like to take risks," Ivanovic said. "I didn't want to wait and see if she's going to make a mistake or not. I just wanted to take this in my hands and make the shots."

Ivanovic hadn't so much as set foot in the tournament's main stadium until Thursday morning. She went to watch two games of Williams-Kuznetsova, she said, "so I could get a little feel" for the place before facing Vaidisova.

The other semi-final was due to feature Justine Henin and Marion Bartoli. They won quarter-finals on Wednesday, when Henin beat Serena Williams and Bartoli eliminated Michaella Krajicek.

Henin, twice a runner-up at the All England Club, is trying to complete a career Grand Slam. Bartoli, meanwhile, never had been beyond the third round at any major until reaching the quarter-finals last month at Roland Garros.

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