Tomas Berdych is, as the cliche goes, taking one match at a time yet he is also aware that his run to a first Australian Open semi-final berth is more open for him than it has ever been.
The 28-year-old Czech silenced a boisterously partisan crowd on Hisense Arena on Friday with a comfortable third round 6-4 6-2 6-2 victory over Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur.
It was his third successive straight sets victory in blistering heat this week at Melbourne Park and set up a fourth-round clash against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who he has never lost to in their nine career matches.
“I haven’t seen the draw,” Berdych said when asked about his next opponent. “I just go one-by-one.
“I heard that I might play the winner of Anderson and Roger Vasselin,” he added before the outcome of the five-set marathon between Anderson and the Frenchman was concluded.
“That’s all I know for the future.”
Should he win that clash on Sunday, the tall right-hander would have made his fourth successive quarter-final at Melbourne Park, likely against world number three David Ferrer of Spain.
Ferrer has quietly gone about his business as well, but few pundits have given the Spaniard much chance to win the title and Berdych’s booming serve and powerful strokes could be the edge he needs to make the last four for the first time.
While Australia has been the world number seven’s most consistent grand slam, it is also his least successful.
He has reached the semi-finals at every other major on the calendar and clearly has the game to challenge the best in the world.
He memorably dispatched Roger Federer at Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in 2010, then beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals before he lost to Rafa Nadal in the final.
He also made the semi-finals at Roland Garros the same year, while he made the U.S. Open semi-finals in 2012, where he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray.
World number one Nadal, Wimbledon champion Murray and 17-times grand slam champion Federer, however, are on the other side of the draw at Melbourne Park and Berdych acknowledged that his path to the semi-finals was easier than it could have been.
“Of course I do. You doesn’t have to be smart to figure it out that they not going to be in your half,” he replied when asked directly about his side of the draw.
“You know, it’s always about the draw. Really, if I’m going to have it once pretty good, yes, I take it.”
Should Berdych beat Ferrer he is likely to meet four-time champion Djokovic for a place in the final.
While the men’s top players have done what they have needed to get through the first week of the tournament, Berdych’s play at Melbourne Park has been as impressive, none more evident in his clinical performance against Dzumhur.
The 21-year-old had enjoyed vocal support from Melbourne’s large expatriate Balkan population and he had been seeking to be the first qualifier to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open since Canada’s Milos Raonic in 2011.
Berdych, however, was simply too strong for the youngster and gave him nothing to capitalise on, ruthlessly snuffing out his two break point opportunities and building on what he had achieved in his earlier matches.
“So far everything’s going well,” he said. “I think I went through a couple of challenges through those three matches.
“But I played three guys, two of them I haven’t seen before. The one I’ve seen but never played before.
“I think it was a good few things that I tried and proved for myself that everything is going well.
“I feel good on the court. That’s important for my game.”
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