It’s an ominous warning if Tomas Berdych suggests his serve needs to improve having won it 52 times in a row on his way to a fourth Australian Open quarterfinal.
The Czech world No.7 has not dropped a set, let alone his serve, all tournament, and although he finds himself in familiar territory, he is adamant this time is different after beating Kevin Anderson for the 10th straight time on Sunday afternoon, easing past the South African 6-2 6-2 6-3.
This time, he says, there’s plenty left in reserve.
“If I could compare right away all those four years, this year is my best so far so really I want to go one by one. There is still a lot to go … as you said a lot of petrol left, which I’m definitely going to need in the next match, so I’m really happy for it,” the 28-year-old said.
He will have to overturn a 4-7 head-to-head record against Spanish terrier David Ferrer in Tuesday’s quarterfinal, but a confidence-boosting win over the third seed at last year’s season-ending championships has Berdych ready to break new ground in Melbourne.
“If I have enough fuel in my tank … I’m glad that I can definitely say that yes I do have so I’m definitely going to need it,” he said.
“Our last two matches we played the end of last season, one I won, one I lost and really, both of them were great matches, great battles so I’m really looking forward to that.”
And Ferrer is in for another dogged battle if he is to reach a third Australian Open semifinal.
Berdych did not face a break point throughout his match against Anderson, the only hiccup coming at 5-2 in the second set when the 19th seed saved eight set points before Berdych registered the double break and the set.
The Czech won 89 per cent of his first-serve points and afterwards, Anderson conceded it was the best he had faced in the 10 losing battles to the Czech player.
“Yes, I can agree with that,” Berdych said. “It doesn't look like, but the only thing I kind of would like to do better was my serve, which I was a bit struggling, especially in the wind from one side was really windy. You know, I could have done it better, but probably it wouldn't look better on the score, but just for my feeling.”
When the 203cm Anderson slumped to an early break of serve in the third set, a spectator yelled “hakuna matata”, Swahili for “no worries”, a phrase made famous in the movie The Lion King.
Slightly sarcastic, perhaps?
It couldn’t have been further from the truth for the South African.
He would drop serve again on the back of three volleying errors, in part, the result of Berdych’s persistent aggression.
A backcourt tumble while serving for the match was the only hitch for Berdych, the match dusted just shy of two hours.
If the Czech continues his unbeaten streak on serve, Ferrer is in for a tough day at the office.
There’s only so much room for improvement when you haven’t dropped serve or a set.