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By Alberto Amalfi

(August 13, 2010) Tomas Berdych was two points from scoring his third consecutive conquest of Roger Federer. But on this night, the third-seeded Swiss refused to be a hostage to history or a victim of Berdych's biting baseline blasts. Fighting back from a 2-5 third-set deficit, Federer showed strong survival skills to subdue Berdych, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), in a gripping two hour, 41-minute victory to reach the Rogers Cup semifinal at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.

The world's top four-ranked players have advanced to the final four.

The third-seeded Swiss squares off against second-ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic in Saturday night's semifinal. That match is a rematch of the 2007 Rogers Cup final, which Djokovic won 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(2) to cap a week in which he beat the then top three ranked players in the world — Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal and Federer — in succession to capture the Rogers Cup title. Federer is 9-5 lifetime vs. Djokovic.

World No. 1 Nadal will play defending champion Andy Murray in the Saturday afternoon semifinal.

Winless in two prior meetings with David Nalbandian, Murray produced some of his most convincing tennis in months in carving up the Washington, DC champion, 6-2, 6-2, at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.

Defending champion Murray needed just 69 minutes to extinguish Nalbandian and will try to turn up the heat on Nadal.

Nadal was not nearly at his best, but withstood a break point serving a second serve at 2-3 in the final set and held off Philipp Kohlschreiber, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours. Nadal said he needs to lift his level of play if he is to beat Murray in a clash of former and current champions. Nadal beat Murray, 7-6(2), 6-3, in the 2008 Rogers Cup semifinals and went on to win the title that year.

"(I have to do) a lot of things well if I really want to have a chance to win," Nadal said. "I had an amazing summer so I think I can do it. But Andy, especially on this surface, is one of the best opponents you can play against. Surely I am here in semifinals so that is a very good hard court start."

While Berdych and Federer are not acrimonious rivals, they aren't exactly the best of friends either.

No. 12 seed Berdych upstaged Federer in pulling off the most powerful performance of his career in making the six-time Wimbledon king disappear from the grass-court Grand Slam nearly six weeks ago. The 6-foot-5 Czech surprised Federer, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, to hand the Swiss just his second Wimbledon loss in his last 54 matches at The Championships.

A disconsolate Federer, who had won 80 of his last 82 matches grass-court matches since 2003, said he was both pained by the loss and by nagging back and leg injuries that diminished his mobility.

"From my end obviously I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing," Federer said immediately after that Wimbledon loss "I couldn't play the way I wanted to play. I am struggling with a little bit of a back and a leg issue and that doesn't quite allow me to play the way I would like to play. It is frustrating to say the least and I am looking forward to some rest."

Federer's comments bothered Berdych a bit, who felt Federer, who rarely relies on injury in explaining losses, tried to minimize the impact of the upset citing the injuries.

Prior to his Wimbledon win, Berdych saved a match point to edge Federer, 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(6), at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami in March. that marked Berdych's first win over Federer since their first meeting at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Bidding to score his third straight win over Federer, Berdych saved 10 of 12 break points tonight and took charge midway through the final set.

Pummelling shots to force Fededer on defense. Berdych drew a backhand error to rbeak for 3-1.

Serving for the match at 5-3, Berdych fought off three break points, but sent a forehand down the line wide handing Federer a fourth break point.

Exhorted by many members of the capacity crowd, Federer lifted a backhand off the baseline that handcuffed Berdych and his reply found the net as Federer was back on serve at 4-5.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion worked his way out of a 15-30 deficit to force the tie breaker with a knifing backhand volley winner.

Federer raced out to a 5-2 lead in the tie breaker, but committed three straight errors and it was 5-all.

A deviously, dipping inside-out forehand landed too low for the 6-foot-5 Berdych to combat. His reply found the net and Federer had a match point.

A short slice backhand from Federer elicited another error and Federer screamed "yeah!" after completing the comeback.


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