Spaniard Rafael Nadal ended his Australian Open campaign with straight sets defeat by Seventh seed Thomas Berdych in Tuesday’s quarter-final encounter at Rod Laver Arena.
Seeded third in Melbourne and playing his first match against a top 10 opponent since beating Novak Djokovic to claim his ninth French Open title last year, Nadal was just not at his best.
The seventh seed, who is just three weeks into his partnership with Venezuelan coach Daniel Vallverdu, closed out a 6-2 6-0 6-6(7-5) win in two hours 13 minutes to reach his second semi-final at Melbourne.
The win also saw Berdych snap a 17-game losing streak against Nadal, whom he has not beaten since Madrid in 2006. He is the second Czech player (Since Ivan Lendl) to reach the Australian Open semis twice having lost to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka at the same stage last year.
“The goal is the top but you have to climb all the steps. I’m feeling strong and prepared and I want to go all the way,” Berdych said in his on-court interview.
“I’m just putting myself in the best possible position and trying to go one by one.”
After dropping the first two sets, Nadal was serving to stay in the match when he saved two match points at 5-5 to take the contest into a tie-breaker, but Berdych was calm in control as he raced to a 5-1 lead and then clinched it on the fourth match point on his opponent’s return serve.
Berdych will meet the winner of the last 8 tie between British No. 1 Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios for a place in the 2015 showdown.
Asked if having Vallverdu as part of his team will play a part in a possible last 4 tie with Murray, Berdych said: “It might be an advantage for us? But just important to be prepared.”
Vallverdu was in charge of the British team when Murray won the London 2012 Olympic gold and has a long-standing friendship with the two-time Grand Slam champion.
No more Kyrgios comeback in Melbourne Park
Murray ended Kyrgios’ fairytale runwith straight sets win to reach his fifth Australian Open semi-finals.
The Sixth seed sailed to a 6-3 7-6(7-5) 6-3 win over the home favourite and will now be looking to get his fifth win over Berdych after managing just 4 in their ten meetings.
Murray, 27, was never “going to underestimate Kyrgios” after watching the 19-year-old come back from two set down to clinch a five-setter against Andreas Seppi two days ago and with the Canberra native playing in his first quarter-final fixture at the Australian Open, he held his nerves and produced brilliant tennis on the big points en route to a convincing win.