Ernests defies odds to smash quarterfinal curse in Memphis
The long wait for a three-match winning streak is over after Ernests showed astonishing fortitude in his hard-fought victory over Tomas Berdych today.
He clawed back from 2:5 down in the final set and pushed through pain from a recurring knee injury.
The three-set victory propelled him into his first Tour-level semifinal since his ATP debut in St Petersburg in 2006.
Much like Ernests, the fifth-seeded Berdych is also a talented power hitter whose tumultuous inconsistency has hindered him from fulfilling his fearsome potential.
A match between two men of such similar temperament therefore was bound to be a Russian roulette of sorts, with both players alternately firing bullets and blanks.
In the opening set, Ernests held serve until the second-last game before capitulating and handing Berdych a 5:3 lead which the Czech converted to win the set.
However, like the Empire, Ernests struck back in the second set, mixing in some serve-and-volley to befuddle his opponent. An early break in Ernests’ favour kept him ahead and he maintained the momentum until the end of the set, which he secured with an ace.
Nonetheless, his heroics appeared to have gone to waste after he dropped serve four games into the final set. A string of unforced errors pushed him deeper into his predicament before he summoned the trainer on court to treat an injury to his left knee.
At 3:5 down with Berdych serving for the match, all seemed lost but Ernests continued to batter at his opponent’s defenses, willing himself to find a chink in the Czech’s armour.
His determination finally was rewarded with a break of serve which kept him alive in the match.
With both men not conceding any ground, it was fitting that a tiebreak was required to settle the proceedings. They traded minibreaks before Ernests scored himself three match points after two dazzling winners on Berdych’s serve.
Against all odds, it was Ernests who finally had the match on his racquet and he did not play the fool, imperiously sealing passage into the semi-finals with his 23rd ace of the day.
He awaits the outcome of the quarterfinal match between top seed, Andy Roddick, and the eighth-seeded Sam Querrey to determine the identity of his foe in Saturday’s semi-final.
Win or lose tomorrow, Ernests has already earned 180 ranking points for his run to the semis, which will push him up into the Top 80.
Thus begins the long slog back into the elite tiers of the game, a rank deserved by Ernests’ talent but so far not by his efforts. It is hoped that this is the beginning of a breakthrough long overdue, and not yet another blip in a series of false starts.