Roger Federer thought exactly what every fan watching in the stadium and on TV was thinking when Tomas Berdych double-faulted on Federer’s second match point of the final-set tiebreak Thursday to hand the Swiss a spot in the Miami Open semifinal.
“I was like, ‘Wow, double fault? Are you kidding me? You’re too kind, Tomas. Why? Like how do I deserve this one?’ ’’ Federer said, shaking his head after the 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6) victory. “I don’t feel like I deserved it that much, a double fault at that moment. I guess he was playing on the edge.”
Everyone at Stadium Court was on edge throughout a thrilling third and deciding set that lasted nearly an hour. Federer, off to a blazing start in 2017 after a six-month injury layoff, was serving for the match at 5-3 in the final set, and then he did something very un-Roger-like. He allowed Berdych to break him at love and extend the match.
“I just played a shocker of a game to get broken,” Federer said. “Somehow, I lost a ball on the first point, then a double fault and then at love-30 things are just complicated. Plus, it was against the wind, so it was a very disappointing game for me.”
But he said he remained optimistic, kept battling and got lucky in the end.
“I guess I like to see that [Berdych] went out and went for it and kept believing until the very end,” Federer said of his opponent’s final two serves. “Maybe overcooked the last one unfortunately for him. I was totally surprised. I was ready for either a big serve to the forehand again or just something to the backhand.
“When it went out I was like, ‘Are you serious? It’s over. OK. Oh, my God. OK. That was really lucky.’ That was a strange moment. Totally unexpected.”
Berdych said he was extremely frustrated to be so close and lose that way.
“What should I do? Should I destroy the table? Then you see how much I’m frustrated,” he said. “I don’t know. Yes, I am [frustrated]. It’s obviously not something that you want to finish the tournament like. But I will get over it. … I lost by one point, it is that simple.”
Federer improved his season record to 17-1 and Friday night will play No. 12 seed Nick Kyrgios, the fiery Australian, who beat German hotshot Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-7 (9-11), 6-3 in the Thursday night match.
Kyrgios delighted the sellout crowd with four between-the-legs shots, although one of them cost him the second set. Both players have big personalities and offered a glimpse of an exciting rivalry that could continue for years to come.
“Sasha (Zverev’s nickname) is one of my best friends, and I was lucky to play against a guy like him,” Kyrgios said. “He has a massive future, he’s going to be unbelievable player. The crowd was great. I played that tweener, a set point down, don’t know what I was thinking.
“The match could have gone either way. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed the match.”
Judging by the roars throughout the match, they did.
Kyrgios beat Federer the one time they played — 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (14-12) — in Madrid in 2015. They were supposed to play in Indian Wells two weeks ago but Kyrgios came down with a virus.
“He’s the greatest of all time, and I love playing against Roger,” Kyrgios said. “He’s my favorite tennis player, and we don’t know how long he’ll hang around, so it’s a blessing to play him.”
Federer said he is looking forward to the semifinal and had high praise for both Zverev and Kyrgios.
“They’re big players,” he said. “They like the big stage. Both have a big serve. Both a real nice backhand, and the belief, so that makes them just very tough to play in any given match. The question with those guys coming up is can they bring it every single day? How is the mind and the body coping through all the sort of newer stress for them that they’re experiencing?
“I like both their games and I think they’re going to be very, very good players moving forward. They’re knocking on the door of the top 15, top 10 and then moving forward. It’s great for tennis.”