On this day: Tomas Berdych edges Ivan Ljubicic for Masters 1000 glory


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On this day: Tomas Berdych edges Ivan Ljubicic for Masters 1000 glory

Marat Safin had not been able to defend the title in Paris 2005 but was there to represent the trophy to the 20-year-old Czech Tomas Berdych who defeated Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes.

It was only the second ATP crown for the promising youngster who would never reach this level again despite spending so many years in the top-10 and winning almost 200 Masters 1000 matches. The Croat suffered another setback after previously losing in the final of Madrid to Rafael Nadal in the fifth set tie break two weeks earlier, experiencing another tight loss and missing a chance to become the Masters 1000 champion instead of Tomas.

It was one of the closest finals at this level of competition since 1990, with Ljubicic winning two points more in the clash with just five breaks of serve on the fast indoor court. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were not in Paris (they claimed the first eight Masters 1000 titles that season) and Berdych was the only unseeded player who reached the quarter-final, joining two Spaniards, the top seed Andy Roddick and the last year's finalist Radek Stepanek.

In the all-Czech battle, Berdych took down Stepanek in three sets and set the title match with Ljubicic who defeated Roddick in straight sets after a dominant performance on serve. He was the favorite against Tomas as well, beating the youngster in the previous two matches but failing to repeat that in the final in Paris, blasting 28 aces but getting broken three times from nine chances offered to Berdych.

Tomas lost serve twice and it was a thrilling battle between two great servers from start to finish, with all five sets decided with a single break! Tomas had more winner and more unforced errors, trailing to Ljubicic in the shortest points up to four strokes (the Croat was 58-45 in front in service winners) but managing to overcome that deficit in the more extended exchanges and cross the finish line first.

Berdych drew first blood in the fourth game after a volley winner and confirmed the break with three winners in game five for a 4-1. The Czech was on a roll now in those moments, creating another break chance in the next game, only to be denied by a service winner from Ivan who regrouped to stay in touch until the ninth game when Tomas fired four service winners to complete the set in just over 30 minutes.

After eight easy holds in set number two, Berdych created a break opportunity with a forehand winner, seizing it with a volley winner to move 5-4 ahead and serving for the set. That tenth game proved to be a very dramatic one but the Czech brought it home with a smash winner after a few deuces, opening a 6-3, 6-4 advantage in just over 70 minutes.

With his back pushed against the wall, Ljubicic finally made some damage on the return in the second game of the third set, scoring a break after an excellent forehand crosscourt attack. Ivan blasted three winners in the game that followed to confirm his lead, serving well until the seventh game when he had to defend two break chances.

He saved them with service winners to extend the gap to 5-2 and forced an error from Tomas two games later for a 6-3 to prolong the duel. The fourth set was decided in the fifth game when Tomas sprayed a forehand error, suffering a break and winning just two points in the last three return games to hand the set to the Croat who forced a decider and gained the momentum.

Besides that, Berdych had to receive a medical timeout on his left leg, managing to continue and sailing through his service games to keep the pressure on Ivan who served for staying in the matc at 4-5. The Croat fended off three match points but Tomas found the way to convert the fourth with a backhand winner, celebrating the title that propelled him into the top-25 for the first time in his career, 21 months after he cracked the top-100.