Playing at the Rotterdam Open after a gap of 10 years, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka denied Tomas Berdych a chance to retain the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament title on the last day. The fourth seed and world no.8 won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a grueling three-set 2-hour encounter against the Czech. It was Wawrinka’s sixth straight victory against Berdych and his tennis career’s ninth title. Wawrinka lost the first set but bounced back to take the next two against a player, who had looked like taking the back-to-back title with his sustained performance over the week. Wawrinka also wrote his name on the tournament rote as the fourth winner from Switzerland after Heinz Gunthardt, Jakob Hlasek and Roger Federer. In two months of the new tennis season, Wawrinka has won two ATP tour-level titles. His first tournament victory came at the Aircel Chennai Open in January.
Berdych began aggressively in the first set but Wawrinka covered him with solid defense with deft movements around the court. The Swiss was down 30/40 in the fifth game but he saved the break point from several yards behind the baseline. Berdych, however kept the pressure with his precise placements and deep volleys. Berdych has a new coach these days in Dani Vallverdu, who wants his ward to be aggressive. The Czech has displayed such traits in his earlier matches and seen his opponents wilt under his new tactics. His semifinal match against Gilles Simon is a case in point, where the Czech didn’t allow the Frenchman more than 3 games in the entire match. Playing forcefully against Wawrinka, he secured another break in the seventh game and won on his third break point to open a 4-3 lead. Afterwards, it was left to winning just the service games as the Czech took the first set 6-4. The second set went on serves for a while. But when Wawrinka engaged Berdych in long baseline rallies, the Czech lost his cool. Serving in the eighth game at 3-4, Berdych dropped to 0/30 that soon became 15/40. Berdych managed to save one break point with an ace but a beautifully executed forehand gave the break to the Swiss for a 5-3 lead. Holding his serve next, Wawrinka took the match to the decisive third set. By now, Berdych’s first serve percentage had dropped to 38% and this gave the advantage to Wawrinka. He broke Berdych’s service in the opening game of the third set with a lucky net-chord. Then the Swiss broke again to take a 4-1 lead but Berdych fought back and found a break against the Swiss. Even so, it was still 5-3 in Wawrinka’s favor. Berdych held his service to make it 5-4 but Wawrinka was to serve next. The Swiss kept his nerve and won the set and the match, which brought him the first indoor title of his tennis career.
Berdych was on course to successfully defend the Rotterdam Open title to become fifth such player in the tournament’s history after Arthur Ashe, Stefan Edberg, Nicolas Escude and Robin Soldering. His progress to the final has been power-packed but Stan Wawrinka played like a man possessed and denied him the pleasure in the end. Disappointment was clear when Berdych spoke after the match and said that he missed his chances in the second set and played poorly in the third.
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