Federer survives; Nadal loses

August 10, 2006 11:30 PM
Tomas Berdych 225 w

TORONTO (Ticker) - Rafael Nadal has a hard time with Tomas Berdych on hard courts.

The second-seeded Nadal suffered just his sixth loss of the season Thursday, a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 setback to Berdych in the third round of the $2.45 million Rogers Cup.

Playing in his first tournament since losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, Nadal again showed himself to be vulnerable in a hardcourt setting. He fell to 1-2 all-time vs. Berdych, with both losses coming on hard courts.

A native of Spain, the second-ranked Nadal fell to 44-6 this season. He won the French Open on grass and reached the Wimbledon final on grass but still is looking for the first hardcourt tournament win of his career.

The 13th-seeded Berdych beat up Nadal with his strong first serve and groundstrokes plus frequent forays to the net. Except for a stretch in the middle set, he was in control throughout.

"I was perfect serving today and I think this was the key," said Berdych, a native of the Czech Republic.

Berdych also capitalized on Nadal's erratic service game. Unable to land his first serve, Nadal's softer second serve was pounced on by Berdych, who put his opponent on his heels.

"The first serve from Rafael is not so bad, but the second serve has a lot of spin," Berdych said.

Berdych broke Nadal's serve twice in the first set and struck again in the second game of the third set en route to a 3-0 lead. In a fitting finish, the Czech scored his final service break to cap the match.

Berdych next meets another very talented 20-year-old in Richard Gasquet of France, who moved on with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Gasquet bounced top American James Blake in the second round.

Roger Federer 225 w
The top-seeded Federer also ran into some problems but recovered for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 victory over Dmitry Tursonov of Russia in the nightcap, improving to 31-1 in hardcourt matches this year.

"Because things were going so well in the first set, I tried to break the rhythm (of the match)," said Federer, who amassed 47 winners. "But I also broke my rhythm."

Federer took a tumble on his right side in the second set, where he briefly lost control of the match. He quickly regained it with service breaks in the first and third games of the third set, demoralizing Tursunov.

"You feel (the fall) for a few points and it burns, but nothing happened, really," Federer said.

Federer advanced to meet Belgium's Xavier Malisse, who eliminated Sweden's Thomas Johansson, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. The Swiss superstar's side of the draw further opened up Thursday as No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile upset fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3).

It was the second win over Ljubicic this season for Gonzalez, who evened the all-time series at 3-3. His next foe will be Argentina's Jose Acasuso, who dispatched Frenchman Julien Benneteau, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Gonzalez recently teamed up with coach Larry Stefanki. The partnership is paying off as Gonzalez believes he is poised to make a major breakthrough.

"I feel ready," said Gonzalez, currently ranked 16th in the world. "My game is improving. I'm playing day-to-day good tennis. Normally, maybe one year ago, two years ago, I play unbelievable one day, the next day maybe I can miss a few things and I can lose the match. ... Now I feel that day to day I can still play in this way."

Another player benefiting from a new coach is Britain's Andy Murray, who reached his first Tennis Masters Series quarterfinal with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Carlos Moya of Spain.

The 19-year-old Murray has yet to lose a set in this tournament and improved to 7-1 under new mentor Brad Gilbert.

"I've won them all in straight sets, which has been good as well," said Murray, long but a bit frail at six feet and 150 pounds. "(I) haven't had too many long matches. At my age, I do need to get physically stronger. This is a first sort of step. Get mentally stronger, as well, not put mind over matter."

After scoring a break in the fourth game, Murray lured Moya away from his comfort zone at the baseline so he could pass him at the net. The Brit briefly lost his focus in the second set, allowing Moya to win the first two games before quickly regrouping to score three service breaks, including one in the clinching game.

Murray appears to have a solid chance at the semifinals. He will face 14th seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, who had to rally for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8) victory over David Sanguinetti of Italy.

"I might be feeling a little bit tired (Friday), but I'm in the quarterfinals of a Masters Series for the first time with a good chance to make the semis," Murray said. "Regardless of how I'm feeling (Friday), I'm still going to go out there and give it my best shot."