Murray not taking Berdych lightly
Andy Murray begins potentially the biggest weekend of his tennis career with a US Open semi-final against Tomas Berdych in New York.
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The 25-year-old is hoping to turn Olympic gold into grand slam glory, and for once he does not have either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in his way.
The path is certainly not easy, though. Defending champion Novak Djokovic has looked supreme on the other side of the draw while Berdych produced a display of stunning power to defeat Federer in the quarter-finals.
The Czech is also something of a bogeyman for Murray. Aside from Nadal and Djokovic, the Scot has a winning record against every other member of the top 10, with the exception of Berdych.
The pair have met six times before, with the big-hitting Czech winning four of those matches, including their only previous grand-slam clash in the fourth round of the French Open two years ago.
Murray did beat Berdych in Dubai earlier this year for his first win over the world number seven in six years, but he lost their most recent match on clay in Monte Carlo in April.
The threat of Berdych was all too clear as he shocked a disbelieving Federer, but Murray is confident he has done everything to prepare in the right way.
"It's about who plays the best tennis on the day," said Muray.
I've got great respect for Tomas and he's got a big game and I'll need to be at my best in the semi-final if I want to have a chance of winning.
"But I've had a couple of days on the practice court now with [coach] Ivan [Lendl] and we're working hard on a gameplan. I'm happy with the preparations and am in a good place.
"I've had close matches with Tomas and he's a very good player who's just beaten Roger Federer. But all I can worry about and focus on is my game and make sure I'm ready for the challenge."
After Murray and Berdych do battle, Djokovic will take on fourth seed David Ferrer in the other semi-final.
Spaniard Ferrer has never reached a grand slam final and he will have his work cut out if Djokovic shows anything like the form he demonstrated in beating former champion Juan Martin Del Potro on Thursday.
So bad was the forecast that the women's final, scheduled for Saturday night, had already been postponed, and Murray and Berdych were making extremely slow progress.
The match had already been going for an hour and 20 minutes when they began the second set, but Murray was clearly fired up and immediately had three break points, taking the second when Berdych pushed a forehand long.
The Scot began the fourth game with a serve that died in the wind before Berdych could reach it, no doubt bringing a smile to the lips of club players everywhere, who would be much more familiar with such scenarios.
Murray seemed to be enjoying himself a bit more now, taking on the challenge instead of being frustrated by it, and he broke again to lead 4-1.
Berdych held to force the third seed to serve out the set, but no sooner had Murray thrown the ball up for his first serve than a gust of wind blew his chair and racquet bag across the court.
The Czech laughed at the impossibility of playing tennis in such conditions but on they went and Murray duly wrapped up the set 6-2.
Murray, who was being watched by Sean Connery, began the third set as he had the second, with a break of serve, as Berdych shot an exasperated look towards his supporters.
Murray's greater variety and tactical acumen suited the conditions much better than the Czech's raw power and another break for 3-0 gave him a firm hold on the match.
Mentally, Berdych seemed to have gone walkabout and, although he saved four set points at 1-5, a fifth arrived and this time the Czech drilled a forehand just long.
Berdych's hopes of making a second grand slam final were hanging by a thread, and they took another hit when Murray broke again in the second game of the fourth set, the 25-year-old taking his fifth break point.
Berdych stopped the run of games against him at five, saving more break points, and that seemed to revitalise him as he then created a rare opening on the Murray serve and took it.
Suddenly it was a match again, albeit one that was still very much in the third seed's hands, but if he was going to win it in four sets it would have to be in a tie-break.
Murray was unfortunate that he started the game at the more difficult end and Berdych raced into a 4-1 lead, but the Scot recovered the deficit when they switched ends, levelling at 5-5 with an angled backhand return.
Berdych played a good point to move 6-5 in front but Murray saved the set point and then brought up his first match point only to see the Czech fire down an ace.
But Berdych erred with his forehand to give Murray a match point on his own serve, and another mistake from the Czech sent his opponent leaping around the court in delight.
INTRO: Andy Murray overcame Tomas Berdych and a howling gale to reach his fifth grand slam final at the US Open.
A storm delayed the start of play and, although the rain cleared, an extremely strong wind blew the whole way through the match, disrupting play on numerous occasions and making life extremely tough for both players.
But, although Murray lost a tight first set, it was he who coped with the conditions better, surviving a fightback in the fourth set from Berdych to win 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6 (9/7) in three hours and 58 minutes.
It will be the 25-year-old's second consecutive grand slam final after his Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer and his second US Open final.