For the second straight week Novak Djokovic forced his semifinal opponent into submission. Last Saturday night in Montreal, JW Tsonga had to quit against the Serb. Yesterday, it was Tomas Berdych’s turn to throw in the towel against the dominant Djokovic.
The big Czech entered the semifinal with a bad shoulder though early appeared no worse for the wear. Hammering serves and forehands, Berdych broke Novak earning himself a chance to serve out the first set at 5-4. But after a visit from the trainer Berdych managed just two more points thereafter as Djokovic took the set 7-5, Berdych retired, match over.
“In the beginning, just started like if I had to stretch, especially for the backhand side and some air balls,” Berdych said about his bad right shoulder. “But since the match was going on, then especially it started more on the serve, which is for me the worst.
“I felt pretty well in the beginning, so I was pretty much confident that if I would stay healthy that I would have a really good chance today. Right now I’m just really hoping to get ready to be ready for my first match at the US Open.”
Berdych’s retirement puts Djokovic into the final against Andy Murray, in a rematch of their Australian Open final.
Djokovic, who is 57-1 on the year and 33-0 on hardcourts, will be seeking his 10th title and, if he hasn’t done so already, to wrap up the year-end No. 1 ranking.
“It’s great I’m in another final,” said Djokovic. “It’s a great achievement. Tomorrow I’ll try to get another title.”
Murray won a very Murray-like match – fake injuries, breaks of serve, poor play – defeating the red hot Mardy Fish 6-3, 7-6(8).
“I was struggling physically early on in the second set,” said Murray who looked to be battling cramping issues. “That’s frustrating for me, because that’s something I haven’t struggled with for quite a long time. I need to get that better before the US Open.
“I need to get stronger; I haven’t played many matches in the past few weeks and this was the first tough one. I maybe need another one hour and 40 minutes of endurance in me before the US Open.”
Well, Andy, I think you’ll get another 1:40 in today, don’t worry.
Djokovic leads Murray 6-3 and 2-0 this year with that Australian Open win and a cliffhanger in Rome on clay.
On this quick surface I give Murray a legitimate chance today, but I have to go with the momentum pick Novak. I think the Berdych retirement will recharge him mentally and physically and he knows he just needs two more good sets and his US Open prep is over. He has to play them so why not win them? Especially against a threat like Murray. I don’t think Novak would have lost much sleep had Monfils or Berdych beaten him, but Murray is a US Open contender and with just one from the start of the tournament you don’t want to give a guy like that any hope. Djokovic has to know that.
Also, unless Djokovic’s is totally off, Murray can’t win by looping balls in the middle of the court. Djokovic is far too dialed-in right now for that strategy to have any legs. Murray has to come out swinging and play fearless tennis.
“This is a surface that he plays well on, I think,” said Djokovic. “We played here finals, two tough sets, and he has won that. So he knows what it takes to win a big match, a big tournament. So there is no favorite tomorrow.”
Novak, do you really think anyone is making Murray the favorite?
“I’ll need to play well to get it tomorrow, but it’s a good test tomorrow to see exactly where my game is before the US Open, because he’s the No. 1 in the world just now,” added Murray.
So assuming he is healthy I do give Murray a chance. Maybe it’s a very hot/humid day and Novak, as we’ve seen from him this week, gets down early at the start and because of the heat he’s unable to recover. It’s also an early 12:30 start for Novak who’s been playing late in the day or at night while Murray’s been up early playing a few 11am matches this week which will help the Scot.
And Murray got his lone Cincinnati title beating Djokovic in that final back in 2008.
But right now it’s just hard to bet against a guy playing some of the best tennis in the history of the sport.
Afterward in the women’s final between two former No. 1s, Maria Sharapova meets Jelena Jankovic. If Sharapova can close out Cincinnati I think she’ll be the strong No. 2 pick behind Serena Williams to win the US Open.
The men’s final is live at 12:30pm on CBS (Djokovic makes his U.S. network debut) while ESPN2 has live coverage of the women’s final at 4pm.
SUNDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 12:30 pm
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  A Murray (GBR) – ATP
Not Before 4:00 PM
 J Jankovic (SRB) vs  [WC] M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
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Nadal Crushes Murray for Masters Indian Wells Title
Cincinnati Men’s Draw: Federer Returns Seeking A Sixth Title, Gets Nadal In His Quarter
Rafael Nadal Could Skip Cincinnati, Roger Federer Might Miss Montreal