For a second straight day, a first-time Slam finalist targets perhaps the most coveted prize in the sport; can Tomas Berdych succeed where Vera Zvonareva failed? Confronted with a similar conundrum of tackling the world #1 (although not the top seed in his case), the rising Czech shares the Russian’s reputation as a former mental midget who recently has surmounted emotional foibles to unlock previously unexploited potential. In a more relevant sense, though, Berdych differs dramatically from the 2010 ladies’ runner-up, whose serving and shot-making abilities fell far short of those displayed by her opponent. Superior to Nadal in serving and at least equal in shot-making, the nemesis of Federer and Djokovic possesses a game much more aligned with grass-court tennis than Zvonareva’s style. Also unlike his Russian counterpart, the Czech has resoundingly proclaimed his right to play for the title by defeating two of the top three players in the world here, including the six-time champion. Nevertheless, he has lost his last six meetings and last fourteen sets against the Spaniard, who ousted him from the All England Club three years ago. The three wins that Berdych did score over Nadal occurred on hard courts in 2005 and 2006, when Rafa remained well below his scintillating best on what is still his least comfortable surface.
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