Tomas Berdych was one of the most consistent players at the Masters 1000 level alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, reaching many quarter-finals and semi-finals but usually failing to make a decisive step and fight for the title.
One of those rare chances came on blue clay in Madrid 2012 after defeating Juan Martin del Potro 7-6, 7-6 to set the final clash against Roger Federer. It was an incredible battle between two hard-hitting, aggressive players, with two breaks on each side and 79 points on the tally of both.
Berdych had more winners and more unforced errors, rushing to the net and trying to keep the rallies on his racquet. Del Potro had his roles and earned five break chances, converting only two and losing ground in the closing stages of both tie breaks to finish his journey in the semis.
Two of those break chances came in the very first game of the match, with Berdych staying calm to erase them all and avoid an early setback. What he failed to achieve in that one, del Potro fixed two games later after landing a perfect backhand crosscourt winner to open a 2-1 gap, holding with a service winner in the next game to cement the advantage and settle into a nice rhythm.
Tomas Berdych prevailed over Juan Martin del Potro in 2012 Madrid semi-final.
Both players served well until the tenth game when the Argentine could close the opener, only to suffer a break at love that kept Tomas in contention.
From 5-1 down in the tie break, del Potro climbed back to 5-5, netting a backhand in the next point and allowing Berdych to wrap up a grueling opener with a forehand crosscourt winner after 68 minutes. With momentum on his side, the Czech grabbed an early break at the beginning of the second set, staying ahead until game six when Juan Martin pulled it back after forcing the opponent's error to level the score at 3-3 and produce more drama and excitement.
Both players served well in the remaining games to set a tie break, where Berdych gained a 6-5 lead with two service winners, denied on the match point by an ace from the Argentine, who was giving his best to remain in touch.
Still, he sprayed a backhand error in the next point, and Tomas sealed the deal with a smash winner a few moments later to advance into his third Masters 1000 final and the first since Miami 2010.