ATP Miami QF Preview: Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych

NOLEBERD

Top seed Novak Djokovic remains on course for a potential three-peat in Miami. The Serb will meet 7th seed Tomas Berdych for the 25th time in their careers. Djokovic has dominated the series, 22-2.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs (7) Tomas Berdych
A spot in the semifinals is up for grabs when these two meet this evening in Miami. Despite the straight sets score lines for Djokovic in three matches, it has not all been easy for him. The Serb struggled mightily on serve against Dominic Thiem in the fourth round. He gave the Austrian 15 chances to break, but was able to save 14 times. He saw just six break chances from Thiem, but was much better in converting with three breaks. Djokovic has now broken his opponents 13 times through three rounds of action. Pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the best returner in the sport.

Berdych also saw his biggest struggle in the fourth round as he barely put away Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Berdych was broken three times and really had a tough time with his second serve, winning just 37 percent of the points. He also was not efficient in breaking the Frenchman. Berdych saw 13 chanced to break, but came through on just three. His third rounder against Steve Johnson also showed some potential warning signs. Although he won in three sets and was not broken, the Czech allowed Johnson to see ten break points. A repeat against Djokovic is asking for trouble.

It’s been a miserable experience for Berdych against Djokovic over the years. Berdych has won just two of their previous 24 matches. The last time the Czech won was back in 2013. That came on clay in Rome, where he beat Djokovic 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Since then, Djokovic has won nine straight against Berdych, dropping just two sets. That’s not to say all their recent matches have been white washes in favor of the Serb. In their five meetings covering last season and 2016, Berdych is 0-5, but did manage to win a set in two of those matches and took Djokovic to tiebreaks in three of their last six sets played.

Berdych has shown good fight-back ability against Djokovic when his serve has let him down. Over the course of those last five matches, the Czech has allowed Djokovic to see 42 break chances. In the last three meetings, he has shown some of his best ability to fend those off with six breaks allowed on 18 chances. The two matches prior to that stretch, Berdych was broken 11 times on 24 chances.

Djokovic has rarely avoided being broken by Berdych, but the number of chances the Czech sees is always low. That means he has to be clinical when given the chance to break, something he has not done as well in 2016. He is converting 38 percent of his break chances, four points off his career pace. Djokovic converts about 41 percent of his break chances this season.

Wind and some potential rain are in the forecast tonight. That will have some effect on both players. A key for Berdych would be getting his first serve in consistently. When he does that, he is a difficult nut to crack. He’s been pretty consistent with that against Djokovic in their last three meetings, getting almost 60 percent of his first serves in play. He needs to get around that number to keep the Serb from destroying his second serve.

Djokovic showed a bit of a “human” side against Thiem with his play, but it’s been rare to see the Serb not show up in his next match with some extra emphasis on improvement. With a familiar opponent on the other side of the net and one he’s had a large amount of success against, it’s hard not to figure the top seed will improve and look more comfortable. Berdych could follow the pattern against Djokovic and push the Serb hard in a set, maybe even two. The end result isn’t likely to stray from that usual pattern between these two.

Prediction
Djokovic wins in straight sets

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