Britain’s Andy Murray was to face the daunting prospect of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final of the Cincinnati Open yesterday after both men advanced past the semis in contrasting style. While Murray produced a 6-3, 7-6 win over American Mardy Fish in sweltering heat on Saturday, Djokovic reached his sixth Masters series final of the year when Czech Tomas Berdych retired with a shoulder injury after losing the first set 7-5.
Berdych had picked up the injury during his quarter-final victory over Roger Federer on Friday and had warned that he might not be fully fit for the clash with the game’s hottest player.
“At the beginning, it was so-so and I was able to hit few balls, but as the match went on it become [sic] worse and worse,” Berdych said. “Then there was just no chance to serve and [it would have been] just staying there for nothing.”
Berdych was leading 5-3, but Djokovic reeled off four games in a row to win the first set and while the retirement disappointed the Ohio crowd, it allowed the Serb to extend his record this season to 57-1 and 32-0 on hardcourts.
“Considering the amount of the matches that I’ve played the whole year and especially last couple weeks, everything I’ve been through, it’s great to have a short match today, a short set, and get ready for the final,” Djokovic said.
The Serb, the clear favorite for the US Open, starting on Monday next week, can expect a tougher test from Murray, who must also fancy his chances of going all the way at Flushing Meadows with Rafael Nadal and Federer both out of sorts.
The Scot was on top in the first set, playing smart tennis, but struggled during a bizarre second set, which featured six breaks of serve and ended with a tie-break, won 10-8 by Murray.
The 24-year-old Murray is appearing in his eighth Masters series final. He has already won six titles, including Cincinnati in 2008. Fish, who had beaten Murray in their last three meetings, came into the match on a high after his first career win over world No. 2 Nadal and a week after reaching the Montreal Masters final. Despite the partisan support for Fish, the mood of the first set was very much one of Murray in control after he broke the American, on the fourth break point in a long fourth game.
Murray then went 4-1 up with a superb two handed backhand down the line after saving break point as Fish made him work to keep his advantage. The Scot broke on Fish’s opening serve in the second set, but then lost serve himself, setting the tone for a set where each player was broken three times.
With Murray grabbing his right thigh and his left hamstring and Fish also looking a little worn out, the second set was riddled with unforced errors, seven from Murray and 23 from Fish. Murray, trailed 4-2 in the tie-break, but battled back and seemed to have won at 8-7 when the umpire ruled his effort in, but Fish challenged and the decision was overturned.
The Scotsman kept his cool to win the next two points, on Fish errors, and move into the final without losing a set this week.
“I was struggling physically. That’s frustrating for me, because that’s something I haven’t struggled with for quite a long time,” Murray said. “When you’re kind of in control of a match and then you start to physically get a little bit tired, it becomes frustrating.”