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Sunday May 13, 2012

Berdych edges Argentine to reach final

MADRID: Tomas Berdych reached the final of a Masters event for only the third time when he edged out Juan Martin Del Potro 7-6, 7-6 in a gripping claycourt slugfest at the Madrid Open yesterday.

The Czech sixth seed, who won the Paris Masters in 2005 and was runner-up in Miami two years ago, produced it when it counted in the tiebreaks as the powerfully-built pair, who are both just under two metres tall, sent the ball rocketing back and forth over the blue clay at the Manolo Santana show court.

Del Potro, the 10th seed, looked to be struggling more than his opponent with the slippery surface and also clashed with the umpire over a couple of line calls, refusing to shake his hand at the end of the match.

It was a desperately close contest, in which both players won a total of 79 points and broke each other’s serve twice, but Berdych managed to club 41 winners to Del Potro’s 30 and smashed down 15 aces to the Argentine’s six.

He will play third seed Roger Federer of Switzerland or seventh-seeded Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who stunned world number one and compatriot Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, in today’s title match.

Djokovic and great rival Rafa Nadal have slammed organisers over the introduction of blue clay for this year’s edition, which they say creates a dangerously slick surface, and both have threatened not to return next year unless the traditional red dirt is reinstated.

Nadal was beaten in the third round by Fernando Verdasco, his first loss to his Spanish compatriot in 14 meetings and his first defeat on clay in 23 matches.

“I always say that the conditions are the same for everyone but it’s there for all to see that’s it very difficult here,” Del Potro told a news conference.

Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams will square off for the Madrid Open women’s title after the current and former world number ones swept into the final with a minimum of fuss.

Australian Open champion Azarenka took a step closer to a fifth title of 2012 when she dispatched Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4 before Williams, seeded ninth at the premier event in the Spanish capital, crushed Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka 7-6, 6-0.

Belarussian Azarenka has now beaten third-ranked Pole Radwanska six times in six meetings this year and rarely looked troubled as she seeks to improve on her runners-up finish last year to Petra Kvitova.

She battered 29 winners on the blue clay of the Manolo Santana show court, each accompanied by a trademark shriek of effort, before reflecting on her 6-1 losing record against Williams, who last topped the rankings in October 2010.

“I was much younger and just coming on the tour (for many of our matches) but I have always been competitive against her and she is one of the toughest opponents to play against,” Azarenka told a news conference.

“It’s going to be a different story this time,” the 22-year-old, who was beaten 6-1, 7-6 by Williams in the US Open third round last year, added.

“We had a very good match last year at the US Open so I can take some of the positive things out of that and it’s going to be the first time I play her on clay so we’ll see.”

Azarenka has already netted more than US$4 mil in prize money this year and her only two defeats in 36 matches were to Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the last eight in Miami and Maria Sharapova in the Stuttgart final. — Agencies

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