Djokovic subdues Berdych to reach last four in Finals
Djokovic subdues Berdych to reach last four in Finals
Djokovic had already defeated Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his previous Group A matches and the Serb knew he needed only to win one set against Berdych to be sure of qualifying.
The 25-year-old achieved that goal in just over half an hour, but he refused to take it easy after that and secured the victory, which guaranteed first place in the group and potentially an easier route to the final.
In the process, Djokovic also secured his 73rd match win of 2012, moving him level with David Ferrer as the year’s two most successful players on the Tour.
Berdych’s second loss of the tournament means he is eliminated, while US Open champion Murray can seal his place in the last four by taking one set from his match against Tsonga later on Friday.
Djokovic had won 10 of his previous 11 encounters with Berdych, a dominant run which included victories over the Czech in the Tour Finals for the last two years.
The Serb, who won the Tour Finals in 2008 in Shanghai, was quick to take command again, breaking for a 2-1 lead when Berdych netted on the fourth break point of the game.
Berdych had a chance to get back in the match when he earned his first break point on the Djokovic serve in the next game, but the Serb snuffed out that glimmer of hope before pressing home his advantage.
Djokovic was dictating the tempo of the rallies and the unnerved Berdych, unable to cause much damage with his booming serve, surrendered a second break in the fifth game that effectively ended the first set.
With his last four place now secured, Djokovic looked like sprinting to victory when he broke to go 2-1 ahead in the second set, but a loose service game presented Berdych with an unexpected lifeline.
That gave renewed impetus to Berdych, who started to unload his groundstrokes with more freedom, and the set went to a tie break.
The Czech looked certain to force a final set when he raced into a 6-3 lead in the breaker.
But Djokovic, who has had to cope with the stress of the sudden illness that struck his father Srdjan recently, once again showed tremendous resolve as he saved all three set points and then shattered with Berdych with a mini-break of his own to seal the win.
Indian pair in semis
Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna clinched their place in the semifinals of the ATP Tour Finals after winning their Group B shoot-out with second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor yesterday.
With Jonathan Marray and Freddie Nielsen already certain of making the semi-finals from Group B, this clash would decide who qualified in second place and the Indian duo produced a superb performance to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 10/5 at London’s O2 Arena.
The two teams had faced off four times this year, with two wins apiece, but Bhupathi and Bopanna won their last meeting in Shanghai and they had the edge again in the prestigious season-ending event.
Bhupahti and Bopanna made the perfect start as they took the first set in a tie break, but an epic second set lasting 56 minutes went to Belarus’s Mirnyi and Canada’s Nestor after another tie break.
That meant a super tiebreak was required to settle the match and Bhupathi and Bopanna seized control, racing into a 9-4 lead before sealing the win on their second match point.
The Indian pair, seeded fifth, were making their first appearance together at the Tour Finals, although Bhupathi had qualified on 11 previous occasions with three different partners and finished as runner-up four times.
After winning the Paris Masters doubles crown last week, they will believe they are in good enough form to win Sunday’s semi-final — their opponent will be decided on Saturday — and possibly even the title itself.
Celtics beat Cavs in Game 5, lead NBA Eastern Conference finals 3-2
- Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and the Celtics held LeBron James to two fourth-quarter points.
- Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary.
BOSTON: LeBron James is tired. The young Boston Celtics seem to be getting stronger.
Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and Boston beat Cleveland 96-83 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics held James to two fourth-quarter points, earning their 10th straight victory in Boston to remain perfect at home this postseason and move within one win of their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.
“I just enjoy playing in the big moments, in the big games. That’s when I have the most fun,” said Tatum, who needs one more 20-point game to tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie record of 10 in a postseason.
“I can’t say it enough: We’re one win away from being in the finals,” Tatum said. “The playoffs bring the best out of people.”
Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. The home team has won every game so far in the series, and none has been closer than nine points.
“We’re looking forward to having an opportunity to force a Game 7,” said James, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds but also had six turnovers. “It’s up to us to see if we can come back here for one more.”
Al Horford had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown had 17 points for Boston. Tatum added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals one day after finishing a single vote shy of a unanimous selection to the NBA’s All-Rookie team.
“The sky’s the limit” for Tatum , Brown said. “He’s going to continue to get better. He’s my workout partner. I expect it in myself and I expect it in him.”
Kevin Love scored 14 points for the Cavaliers, who are trying to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive season. James has played to the end in seven straight seasons.
To extend that streak, he’ll need to win two in a row.
One of them will be in Boston.
“Our focus — LeBron’s focus — is to win,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s the only thing that matters.”
The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. But Terry Rozier hit Horford with an alley-oop to snap the skid, and that was as close as the Cavs would get.
Reserves Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart each scored 13.
James had one basket on four shots in the fourth quarter, and afterward conceded that he was worn down. He finished 1 for 6 from 3-point range in the game; the Cavaliers made just 9 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 42 percent overall.
“I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is tired, worn down whatever the case may be,” he said. “I was still trying to make plays, put our team in position to win.”
GOONING IT UP
Boston went on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead. The Celtics scored nine in a row at the end of the first quarter and into the second to take a 36-19 lead, their biggest of the game.
That’s when the Cavaliers fought back .
After a hard defensive play by Morris sent Larry Nance Jr. into the first row of seats, Morris appeared to wander over and say something. Nance to jump up and body checked him; Morris responded with a one-handed shove to the face.
Aron Baynes and Brown came in to break it up, and Terry Rozier put a body on Nance. After a review, the referees called technicals on Rozier, Nance and Morris. Kyle Korver made the foul shot to make it 36-20 and Cleveland went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to eight points, 36-28.
But Morris made a long 3-pointer to stop the scoring drought, and soon hit another to cap an 8-2 run that made it a double-digit lead.
Smart said the Celtics wanted to more aggressive at home.
“At their place, they were the aggressor,” he said. “That showed and they came up with the victory. We just wanted to be that team tonight.”
Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series win 83 percent of the time. ... James had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists at the half. Tatum had 13 points, and Horford had 10 points and seven boards at the break. ... Baynes made his first start of the series, subbing for Morris. ... It took until midway through the third quarter for a Cavs starter other than James or Love to make a basket. J.R. Smith sank a floater to make it 63-50, and George Hill followed with a jumper of his own. ... The Celtics were 10-0 in the playoffs at home in 1986. ... Horford had his 7th double-double of the postseason, matching a career high he set in 2015.