LONDON: Tomas Berdych clinched a place in the Wimbledon final for the first time as the Czech 12th seed defeated Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 on Friday.
Berdych, the first Czech man to reach the Wimbledon final since Ivan Lendl in 1987, has been a dangerous force on the ATP Tour for the last five years.
But he hadn`t been able to translate his talent into success at the grand slams until the last month.
Since the start of the French Open, the 24-year-old has been in the form of his life. He reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and totally overwhelmed six-time champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals here.
That stunning victory over Federer ended the defending champion`s run of seven successive Wimbledon final appearances but, more importantly, it confirmed Berdych`s transformation into a big-game player.
Now he can look forward to a first grand slam final appearance against world number one Rafael Nadal or Britain`s Andy Murray.
"The feeling is absolutely amazing," Berdych said. "It is a dream to be in the final of any grand slam and if you can reach it, Wimbledon is the top one.
"This is definitely the biggest tournament for me. Now I will try to do the same as I did after the Federer win and enjoy the feeling of victory."
Djokovic admitted this week that he has suffered a crisis of confidence over the last few months and even his progress to the last four had been a triumph for his spirit rather than a reward for particularly fluent play.
The 23-year-old, who won the Australian Open in 2008, had reached this stage once before in 2007, but he was forced to retire from his clash against Nadal due to injury.
This was to prove an equally painful experience.
Berdych is an undemonstrative soul on court, but his lack of visible emotion reflects his clinical approach to the game.
He plays with metronomic effeciency and allows his opponents to beat themselves at times.
Standing a lofty 6ft 5in tall, Berdych had kept Federer on the back foot with a barrage of booming serves delivered with pin-point accuracy.
With Djokovic looking slightly inhibited by the occasion in the first set, it wasn`t long before those tactics paid off as the Serb missed two easy forehands to give Berdych the first break after six games.
Berdych was showing no signs of a hangover from his Federer victory and he had no trouble serving out the set.
Djokovic had a chance to get back into the match when he earned a break point early in the second set.
Even then Berdych had the answer as he came up with a crushing forehand winner to get out of trouble.
Berdych racked up three break points of his own at 5-5 and converted the second when Djokovic smashed an overhead way off target to surrender his serve.
That looked like being a killer blow for Djokovic, but he raised himself when Berdych served for the set and broke for the first time to force a tie-break.
After an hour of baffling lethargy, Djokovic was beginning to play with the verve that defines his game.
He was chasing down every ball and even when he fell 6-2 behind in the breaker, he managed to save the four set-points.
Djokovic fought off another two set-points and seemed to be turning the tide, but suddenly he imploded as a double-fault gifted Berdych the set.
That was the defining moment of the match. After fighting so hard to stay in the tie, Djokovic was a spent force in the third set.
It was only a matter of time before Berdych got the crucial break and he did so in the eighth game before serving out the best win of his life.
BDST: 2048hrs, July 2, 2010