By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – You could say Andy Murray has a home-court advantage at the Miami Open.
The 27-year-old from Great Britain, the world’s No. 4 ranked men’s player, doesn’t just own a home in Miami. He often practices on the courts at Crandon Park Tennis Center, where he’s had great tournament success, especially the past four years.
He knows how the ball will bounce in an area, which serves work to certain spots on the court, and how to handle the wind, sun, and sometimes suffocating heat.
“So that’s why I feel comfortable on it,” Murray said Friday after advancing to the final with a 6-4, 6-4 early-afternoon win against Tomas Berdych on stadium court.
The two-time Miami Open champ, who became the fifth player in the Open Era to reach at least four Miami Open finals, will play in his third in four years on Sunday. And if four-time champ Novak Djokovic also advances with a win against John Isner, it’ll be their third matchup in the final here since 2009.
Murray, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, had no problems getting past eighth-seeded Berdych and into his 13th career ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, winning his second consecutive match against the 29-year-old Czech after losing six of their nine previous meetings.
“When I’ve played him on the clay, I’ve found it tricky against him,” Murray said. “We played a couple times when the conditions have been extremely heavy. He’s a big, big guy, and when the conditions are like that, he can still generate a lot of force and power. But when I’ve played him on some of the quicker surfaces, I feel like I’ve been able to hit through the court and make him move a lot.”
Having beaten Berdych in four sets in the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open, Murray was solid on the baseline Friday, neutralizing Berdych’s power while getting the world’s ninth-ranked player to commit many unforced errors.
“I thought I started both sets well,” Murray said. “That was really the difference, to be honest. We played some good points. Throughout, it was a pretty clean match. I feel like I just played a bit better than him.”
Berdych had a 6-5 edge in head-to-head matchups coming into the match.
“I would say that the only change is that, basically, Andy changed the game plan a bit,” Berdych said. “He started to play much more aggressive in those last two matches he played me. He’s been doing that pretty well. I’m just going to need some time to prepare better for the next time I’m going to play him. Now I know what to expect and to be more ready for it.”
Still, Berdych’s run to his second consecutive Miami Open semifinals – he withdrew from last year’s semi due to gastroenteritis – continued a strong 2015 season for him so far. He reached the final at Doha and Rotterdam, the semifinals of the Australian Open and at Dubai, and the quarterfinals at Indian Wells.
“It was a solid two tournaments for me,” Berdych said of his performance here and at Indian Wells. “Now, the toughest part of the season is coming for me. I’m just going to…keep doing what I was doing until now.”