Top-seeded Berdych upset by unseeded Malisse in quarterfinals of Washington hard-court event

By Howard Fendrich, AP
Friday, August 6, 2010

Berdych loses to Malisse in DC quarterfinals

WASHINGTON — Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych lost in three sets to unseeded Xavier Malisse in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic quarterfinals, adding to the string of upsets at the hard-court tournament.

Malisse beat the No. 1-seeded Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in Friday’s first match.

Malisse knocked off No. 5-seeded John Isner in third round Thursday, when the surprises also included No. 2-seeded Andy Roddick’s straight-set loss to Gilles Simon.

The 62nd-ranked Malisse reached his second semifinal of the year and will face Fernando Verdasco or Marcos Baghdatis for a berth in Sunday’s final. Once a member of the top 20, and a 2002 semifinalist at Wimbledon, Malisse is now ranked 62nd and hasn’t won a title or even played in a tour final since 2007.

With Americans Roddick, Isner, Mardy Fish and Ryan Sweeting all losing Thursday, this is the first time no U.S. players reached the quarterfinals at Washington’s tournament, which dates to 1969. And because Roddick will drop from No. 9 to no better than No. 12 on Monday, no U.S. man will be in the top 10 for the first time since the computer rankings began in 1973.

The Czech Republic’s Berdych is a career-best No. 8, thanks to a breakout season at the Grand Slam tournaments. But Friday’s loss means he will remain without a singles title of any sort in 2010.

He reached his first major semifinal at the French Open in early June, and the next month, he upset Roger Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals on the way to his first appearance in a Grand Slam final. After losing to Rafael Nadal in the championship match at the All England Club, Berdych took a break, deciding not to enter any tournaments until Washington, a tuneup for the U.S. Open.

After a first-round bye, Berdych was pushed to three sets in each of his three matches at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, showing little of the verve and versatility he displayed in Paris and London.

Perhaps affected by whipping wind that topped 20 mph, Berdych’s powerful serve and forehand were not at their best against Malisse, a 30-year-old Belgian who lives in Sarasota, Fla.

Malisse broke Berdych in two of the Czech’s first three service games, including to 4-1 in a game that included eight deuces. Malisse converted his fourth break chance of the game when Berdych missed forehands on consecutive points.

Both players held serve relatively easily for much of the second set, until Malisse double-faulted on break point to fall behind 5-3. Berdych then served out that set, ending it with an ace at 128 mph, followed by a backhand winner down the line that he marked with a fist pump and a yell.

Malisse, though, quickly gained control in the final set, breaking to 3-1 when Berdych pushed a backhand long. Malisse ended the match with another break, helped by Berdych missing volleys on the final two points.

will not be displayed