ABU DHABI // David Ferrer described himself, in one word, as a "fighter" before his match against Tomas Berdych at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. It was an unnecessarily limiting description, especially on the evidence of his bossing in a 6-2, 6-4 win.
This was a command performance from last year's runner-up, Ferrer the absolute master of his domain at the back of the court, crisp and ruthless over the majority of 84 minutes. It was so smooth he even surprised himself, having holidayed in Africa since his last competitive outing.
"It felt good," he said. "I played a very good match and I was surprised because it was a long time without playing a competitive match so I can be happy with what I did."
Ferrer has always been one of the circuit's more durable hitters, able to stretch out rallies, control them or work his way into them when needed. The service of the six foot 5 ins Berdych is not as easy to anticipate or return as Ferrer made it out here; it was not until the seventh game of the second set that the Czech managed to serve out a game to love.
From the very first game of the match, Ferrer worked Berdych around the court, power, precision and great control over the depth of his groundstrokes. He was ruthless too; in each of Berdych's first three service games, he held one break point and he made each count.
In just over half an hour he was 5-0 up, Berdych finding no traction whatsoever on Ferrer's slower but more accurate and reliable serve. At that point, it was not only the gap between tennis' top four and the rest that looked big, because the gulf between the fifth-ranked Ferrer and the sixth-ranked Berdych was looking pretty wide as well.
Berdych clawed back some semblance of balance, saving three set points on Ferrer's serve and breaking in the sixth game to at least get his name on the board. He began moving better thereafter once his serve began to find its range.
But after Ferrer had wrapped up the first set, it was difficult to see a way back for Berdych. The harder he served, the better Ferrer pounced on it. The Spaniard had an early opportunity in the second but wasted two break points in Berdych's opening service game.
The resistance was not to last. Ferrer broke through by breaking in the fifth game and though Berdych saved two match points, Ferrer zipped the last of his many winners down the line to seal it and set up a semi-final today with world No 1 Novak Djokovic.