By John Stonestreet
LONDON (Reuters) – Czech 10th seed Tomas Berdych cruised into his second Wimbledon semi-final on Wednesday, grinding into gear after a slow start to end Frenchman’s Lucas Pouille’s unexpected love-affair with the All England turf in straight sets.
Carrying more court time than any other quarter-finalist, Berdych started slowly against the 22-year-old Pouille, the 32nd and lowest seed in the draw and a man who had never won a match on grass before his eye-opening streak of the past 10 days.
“Lucas had a great run. I was trying to find my rhythm in the first set,” said Berdych, 30, whose best grand slam showing was at Wimbledon in 2010 when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the final.
Playing in his 52nd consecutive grand slam, the Czech will meet either second seed Andy Murray or 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday in his sixth major semi-final in all.
“It would be a really amazing feeling (to reach another final). I am going to try to go for it again,” Berdych said courtside after a relatively routine 7-6(4) 6-3 6-2 win.
He looked out of sorts early on, however, breaking serve in the third game when Pouille hit a forehand long and then handing the advantage back in the next with a double fault.
The Czech, whose sluggish start suggested he was feeling the effects of close to 11-1/2 hours on court in his four previous matches, threatened to fritter away a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak before a deep approach set him up for a clean forehand winner.
That was as good as it got for Pouille, who had lost in the first round in seven of his previous nine grand slam appearances.
The Frenchman, himself still recovering from a three-hour, five-set epic in the fourth round against Australia’s Bernard Tomic, seemed to gradually run out of steam.
Pouille served eight double faults and made 34 unforced errors in all as Berdych cruised through the second and third sets, breaking serve three times and dropping just five games.
(Reporting by John Stonestreet, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)