London: Big-hitting Tomas Berdych saw off a frustrated Novak Djokovic 6-3 7-6 6-3 on Friday to become the first Czech to reach the men’s final at Wimbledon since Ivan Lendl in 1987.
The 12th seed reached his first grand slam final with a murderous display of hitting from the back of the court against the third seed, who showed his frustrations with a code violation during a defeat marked by two costly double faults.
“The feeling is amazing, to reach another victory over another great player, Novak Djokovic, in straight sets, it’s amazing,” the 24-year-old, who beat Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, told a courtside interviewer.
“I think (for) every young kid who first time hits the ball, this is the dream to be in the final of any grand slam. And if you can do it at Wimbledon it’s amazing. It’s definitely the biggest tournament for me. It couldn’t be better.”
Berdych had lost their previous two matches in straight sets but the elegant right-hander comfortably took the opener on Centre Court in 33 minutes, with the help of some wayward Djokovic groundsstrokes.
The imposing 1.96 metres Czech, ranked 13th in the world, broke in the sixth game and later sealed the set with a superb low cross-court forehand that left the Serb ruefully shaking his head as he headed to his chair.
Berdych, who got tongues wagging with an impressive run to the French Open semi-finals this year, produced the shock of the tournament when he out-muscled six-times champion Federer.
Djokovic Déjà vu
He was soon to press on once more, even if the lively Wimbledon crowd were backing his opponent -- one fan exclaiming, “You’re a genius Novak, I love you!”
Berdych received a time violation at 0-30 down in the fourth game but managed to slip out of a break point with another rasping forehand before holding serve after a hesitant Djokovic return sailed out.
Djokovic, the only semi-finalist here never to have won a grasscourt title, looked increasingly frustrated and his mood got worse when the towering Czech broke for 6-5.
Berdych eagerly sought a winner but was stopped in his tracks when his shot hit the tape and dropped stone dead to take the second set to a tiebreak.
Berdych raced into a 6-2 lead only for Djokovic to finally spring into action and with him the Wimbledon crowd woke up.
He saved three set points before a titanic rally ended with a Djokovic lob clipping the baseline. The ball was called out, the HawkEye challenge revealed it was in and the Serb was furious the point would be replayed and not awarded to him.
The replayed point produced another cracking exchange which ended when the Serb greeted a scorching backhand down the line winner with an ecstatic roar to level the breaker at 6-6.
Two set points of his own passed by and one for Berdych before a Djokovic double fault handed the Czech a two-set lead.
Djokovic whacked his racket against his chair, received a code violation from umpire Carlos Ramos and mockingly clapped the official as his frustration threatened to boil over.
The 2008 Australian Open winner was soon to endure an unwanted case of deja vu in the third set as another costly double fault handed Berdych the break for 5-3.
A service winner wrapped up proceedings in two hours and 18 minutes with Berdych’s modest celebrations that of a man getting used to the big moments rather than enjoying a fairytale dream.
For Djokovic, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2007 only to retire midway through the match with blisters against Rafa Nadal, a move to second in the world rankings will be scant consolation.
Berdych will face the winner of Friday’s other semi-final between British hope Andy Murray and 2008 champion Nadal.