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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych powered past Gael Monfils, 6-1, 6-4, to reach the Monte-Carlo final without surrendering a set.

Photo credit: Monote-Carlo Rolex Masters

Minutes into the match, a distracted Gael Monfils was already unsettled by his surroundings and imposing opponent.

Conversation from the late-arriving lunch-time crowd combined with the fact Tomas Berdych continued to chomp on just about anything Monfils served up, left the wild card looking up at chair umpire Carlos Bernardes and observing "The whole match is gonna be like this."

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Monfils was referring to the crowd chatter, but his comment summed up Berdych's commanding play.

Berdych dished out more misery for Monfils, powering past the Frenchman, 6-1, 6-4, in 68 minutes to advance to the Monte-Carlo final for the first time.

The sixth-seeded Czech has not surrendered a set in rolling into his fourth Masters final and 27th ATP World Tour title match. He awaits the winner of today's blockbuster second semifinal between top-ranked Novak Djokovic and eight-time champion Rafael Nadal.

Monfils is an elastic showman, but nearly everytime he runs into Berdych, the Frenchman looks like a man fretting his time on the stage.

You can understand why the sight of the world No. 8 can make Monfils look queasy.

The Frenchman's topspin shots sit up in the six-foot-five Berdych's strike zone, and the explosive Czech has effectively hit through Monfils winning six of their seven meetings.

Berdych is a flat hitter. Monfils was just plain flat.

The pair traded holds to open the match, before Berdych began blasting shots into the corners, reeling off six straight games to seize command.

Failing to exhibit the passion and purpose he showed in knocking off No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov in straight-sets succession, Monfils spent much of the match chasing Berdych's drives well behind the baseline.

Berdych burst out to a 5-1 lead after just 21 minutes of play. The big man's willingness to follow his flat drives to net — he won 10 of 14 trips to net — paid dividends. When Monfils netted a backhand pass, Berdych had the opening set in hand then broke to start the second set as Monfils was left to digest deja vu all over again.

By that point, Berdych had won 23 of the last 29 points seizing a one-set, one-break lead.

Monfils tried to slow the bigger hitter's roll by junking up rallies with slices and off-pace shots.

A 33-shot rally — the longest of the match — ended with Berdych pushing a backhand long. He dragged a forehand wide on the next point, giving Monfils triple-break point — his first break points of the day. When Berdych netted a forehand, Monfils had the break, snapping a slide of six straight games to level the set.

It was a short-lived reprieve.

The 29-year-old Czech broke right back restoring order for 2-1. Trying to rouse himself and engage the crowd, Monfils used a timely drop shot, holding for 2-3 with a firm "Allez!"

Unfazed, Berdych denied double-break point in the following game with some of his most assertive shot-making of the set. After watching his second break point dissipate, Monfils was reduced to muttering to himself behind the baseline, sensing opportunity lost. Berdych closed a hard-fought hold with a forehand volley winner for 4-2.

Berdych continued bullying Monfils around the court, doubling his opponent in winners (21 to 10), winning 12 of 21 points played on the Frenchman's first serve and wrapping up a commanding victory with a forehand down the line.


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