Andy Murray cautioned the world’s media against underestimating Tomas Berdych on Wednesday, and it is certainly not a mistake he will be making when they meet in the US Open semi-finals tomorrow.
While Murray was reflecting on his act of escapology against Marin Cilic, Berdych was beginning his quarter-final against world No 1 Roger Federer.
Inevitably, the focus was on a potential rematch between Murray and Federer after their clashes in the Wimbledon and Olympic finals this summer, but Berdych had not read the script.
The Czech produced a display of supreme power and no little skill to defeat an error-prone Federer in four sets and reach his third grand slam semi-final.
His most recent appearance at this stage came at Wimbledon two years ago when he also beat Federer in the last eight and then saw off Novak Djokovic before falling to Rafael Nadal in the final.
Murray said: “He’s a huge, huge hitter of the ball. Even if you want to dictate points and be aggressive, he can take that away from you because he’s such a powerful guy. You need to be smart against him. You need to use good variation and try not to give him the same ball over and over, because he likes that.”
Murray is well aware of the danger of Berdych having lost four of his six previous meetings with the world No 7, most recently on clay in Monte Carlo earlier this year.
The third seed also knows he certainly must start better than he did against Cilic if he is to reach a fifth grand slam final, and two in one season for the first time in his career. Murray began so sluggishly that he was a set and 5-1 down to Cilic before pulling himself through, with more than a little help from a nervous opponent.
The good news for Murray is he will be on Arthur Ashe Stadium tomorrow, where he has put in his two best performances of the tournament, especially in beating Canadian rising star Milos Raonic in the fourth round.
The Scot managed largely to stay on an even keel mentally against Cilic despite his struggles, a legacy of the work he has done with coach Ivan Lendl, and won 3-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-0. This will be the Scot’s eighth semi-final appearance at the last 10 grand slams, of which he has won two, while Berdych’s only trip to the last four in that time came in his run at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams hailed Sara Errani as an inspiration ahead of today’s semi-final meeting.
The Italian had never been beyond the third round of a grand slam in singles before this year but she began the season by making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and then made it all the way to the French Open final.
“She’s playing well,” said Williams. “The final of Roland Garros and now semis here, potential final. I can’t underestimate her.
“It’s not by luck she’s been doing so well.
“She’s a great fighter and has a great attitude and believes. I think when you have such self belief then you can do anything.
“I love her attitude. I’m inspired by it actually.”
The other singles semi-final sees world No 1 Victoria Azarenka take on third seed Maria Sharapova, with both looking to win a second slam title of the season.