Tomas Berdych booked his place in the fourth round of the Miami Open after he beat American Steve Johnson in three sets.
The seventh seeded Czech appeared to be on his way to a comfortable victory after taking a convincing opening set at the Masters 1000 event.
However after losing the second on a tie break, he eventually needed 2 hours and 43 minutes to reach the next round with a 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3 victory. Berdych will now take on either Richard Gasquet or Benoît Paire in the last sixteen.
Berdych Still Hunting For Major Titles
Despite his great consistency on the tour, the 30-year-old hasn’t won a Masters title since he claimed the Paris Masters title back in 2005. That remains one of Berdych’s major achievements in the game along with the two Davis Cups he helped his country win in 2012 and 2013.
The Czech will have his work cut out if he is to lift the title here in a week’s time. If he comes through his next round match he could potentially face a quarter-final clash with world number one Novak Djokovic who has won the pair’s last nine meetings.
That will be at the back of Berdych’s mind and his record against the very best players hasn’t made good reading in the past few years. However he will be encouraged by the stable start he has made to 2016, and it is clear that he is constantly trying to improve his game in the hope of clinching that maiden Grand Slam title.
That was evident in this matchup, against a player who is a similar size and build compared to the giant Czech. Johnson carved out a route onto the ATP Tour by playing American college tennis for the USC Trojans, and relies hugely on his dominant forehand and big serve.
Strong Start For The Czech
The 26-year-old beat the hugely-hyped teenager Alexander Zverev in the second round; however in the early stages against Berdych it was clear he was facing a different proposition.
Berdych hadn’t hit a ball in Miami after his second round opponent Rajeev Ram withdrew from the tournament on Friday. There were no signs of rustiness as he stomped through the first set without facing a break point.
Johnson understandably spent most of his time camped inside his backhand corner, which allowed him to hit as many forehands as possible. However despite the American’s persistent efforts, it was the more all-rounded game of Berdych which prevailed in the opening set.
The Czech broke serve in the eighth game of the match to lead 5-3; he then went on to serve out the set with relative ease in the following game.
Johnson Fights Back
There were opportunities for Johnson at the start of the second set which Berdych was fortunate to see off. The Czech’s first serve abruptly deserted him and without it he was forced to save six break points.
In the alternate games, Johnson faced four break points on his own serve at the start of the second. However, as the set went on both players began to hold serve more comfortably and a tie break seemed inevitable.
Even so there was still time for a late twist, and Johnson squandered two set points with Berdych serving at 6-5. The Czech held on but couldn’t seal it there and then as Johnson edged the breaker to level the match.
Berdych Reaches Round Four
Despite the American’s grit and determination he couldn’t prevent the match slipping away, as Berdych claimed an early advantage in the decider.
One break of serve was enough, and the Czech closed out the match with minimum fuss.