OEIRAS: Czech Tomas Berdych will put his top seeding on the line Sunday when he plays Carlos Berlocq the final of the Portugal Open. World number six Berdych lived up to his billing with a 6-2, 6-2 hammering of Romanian Victor Hanescu while Argentine Berlocq beat Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 7-6 (8/6), 6-2. Berdych, playing on a wild card, will compete in his third final of the season after Rotterdam and Dubai while the 61st-ranked Berlocq is entering only the third final of his career (1-1).
"The first step is there, I'm in the final," said Berdych. "Now it would be really great to win this title. "It's always a pleasure to be competing at the end of a week. Every final counts and I'm really looking forward to this one." Berdych needed just 72 minutes to defeat Hanescu in a match which he made it all look easy after struggling in the previous round. The top seed won with five aces and four breaks of serve in a straightforward effort which put him into a 22nd career final and bidding for his ninth trophy.
The victory also gives Berdych a 2-0 lead in the series after defeating Hanescu in the Wimbledon second round six years ago. The loss denied Hanescu his 200th career victory on the ATP. "I finally found the way I want to play," said Berdych. "This is how I want to prepare on the clay. "I need (tough) days like yesterday to work through, it's important to fight out of tough situations. That's why I'm here. I want to improve my clay game this week and I'm managing to put my game together." Berdych, who lost early in Monte Carlo, dominated in the opening set, sweeping it in half an hour. He moved out to 3-0 in the second, with Hanescu ending a streak of three broken service games to hold for 1-3. But Berdych kept up the pressure, firing an ace for a 5-2 lead and breaking his opponent a game later to complete the win.
The Czech improved to 24-5 on the season. He spent 2013 as the only member of the top 10 not to win a title but lifted the Rotterdam trophy in February, his first title in 16 months. He is playing Portugal for the first time since 2005, when he lost in the opening round as a teenager. Berlocq's attacking game produced 21 errors from Gimeno-Traver, who saved a set point in the 54-minute opener. But his Argentine opponent got a 2-1 lead in the second set and never let go, breaking two more times on the way to the win. Berdych holds a comfortable 3-0 margin over Berlocq and has beaten the South American twice on clay.
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