Rafael Nadalp, 19, knew: 'Tomas Berdych is a future top-10 player'

Tennis - Nadal wasted three match points against the Czech in Cincinnati 2005

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadalp, 19, knew: 'Tomas Berdych is a future top-10 player'

Starting the season from inside the top-50, a teenager Tomas Berdych scored only three wins in the first two months of 2005, heading to Bastad in July with 12 victories under his belt. Tomas advanced to the final in Sweden, losing to Rafael Nadal in straight sets and gaining momentum for the upcoming events.

The Czech was the quarter-finalist in Stuttgart and the semi-finalist in Washington, facing Rafael Nadal again in Cincinnati. The Spaniard had won 16 consecutive matches before this first-round encounter, heading to Ohio after winning the third Masters 1000 title in Montreal and suffering a 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 loss against Berdych for an early exit.

The battle lasted for almost three hours, and Berdych saved three match points in the closing stages of a decider, notching his first notable victory since the Olympic Games a year earlier when he stunned world no. 1 Roger Federer.

Berdych had the upper hand behind the first serve and in pivotal moments, fending off ten out of 12 break chances and delivering brave tennis on those match points to cross the finish line first. The Czech had over 50 winners and unforced errors, keeping the rallies on his racquet and avoiding lengthy exchanges.

Wasting his opportunities, Rafa dropped serve four times from six opportunities offered to Tomas, losing ground in those decisive moments to terminate the winning streak.

Rafael Nadal praised Tomas Berdych after losing to him in Cincinnati 2005.

Nadal broke at love in the ninth game to move in front before playing a loose game to keep Berdych in.

Saving a set point, Rafa won the tie break 7-4 for a big step towards the next round. From 40-0 in the second set's fifth game, the Spaniard got broken after Tomas' lucky net cord, giving serve away again at 4-2 and allowing the Czech to seal the set with a hold at love a few minutes later.

Struggling with left leg issues and tiredness, Rafa tried to make a fresh start in the decider, serving well and creating five break chances at 4-3 that could have sent him in front. Tomas wasn't to be denied, though, erasing them all to bring the game home and remain in contention.

Carried by that momentum, Berdych grabbed a break in the next game before serving for the victory at 5-4, only to get broken to keep Rafa alive. In the 12th game, Tomas defended those three match points with bold tennis, entering the tie break and winning it 7-3 to advance into the second round.

Praising the rival, Nadal said that Berdych should reach the top-10 in the future, and that became a good call when the Czech cracked the elite group in October next year. "Tomas Berdych is a future top-10 player; he is young and plays well," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Tomas Berdych