Neither Nicolas Almagro nor Tomas Berdych is considered a very dynamic personality, but their match last night ended with the most dramatic exchange of the tournament so far. After winning the match 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, Berdych refused to shake hands with Almagro. He was still upset over an incident that occurred as he served at 5-5, 0-30 in the fourth set. Both men were at net, and Almagro attempted an on-the-run crosscourt forehand into the open court. Instead, the ball hit Berdych in his right elbow and he crumpled to the ground. Berdych was cheered as he clinched the match, but as he bypassed the post-match handshake, the crowd abruptly turned on him. The Czech was booed loudly throughout his post-match interview, in which he said "I think when you have a point, and someone wants to hit you straight to the face, I don't see this as a nice moment." The crowd rejected his explanation, and the boos continued to rain down from the audience until Berdych left the court. You can watch a video of the incident below:
It's pretty clear that Berdych was in the wrong here. It seems like Almagro tried to aim for the open court to the right of Berdych. Even if he didn't, it was a legal play, and both men were positioned far enough from the net that Berdych could have had a play on the ball. Were he not such a poor volleyer, he would have at least been able to get his racquet on the shot. Instead, he flinched and got hit in the arm, not the face as he alleged in his interview. In his press conference later on, he failed to apologize or distance himself from his previous behavior.
Berdych has done little to endear himself to fans in the past, and displays like this won't help his cause. It will be interesting to see how the Melbourne crowd treats him during his quarterfinal clash with Nadal. Yesterday's Hisense Arena crowd deserves credit for calling him out, most of whom will hope that Berdych and his unsportsmanlike attitude crash out of the tournament tomorrow.