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Berdych Breaks Back

April 23, 2010

After his loss in the Sony Ericsson final to Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych drew comparisons in his post-match interview to Ivan Lendl. Berdych was having none of it. ‘ He’s on a completely different level than me. I still need to work a lot to get almost just as close to him’. Berdych was right, despite what interviewers wanted to believe. An all time great being compared to Berdych, a player known only to close followers of tennis, is indeed a little far-fetched. What isn’t is that Berdych has the potential and talent to go very far in tennis. His natural ability has been evident for some time, but until this March, Berdych was mainly confined to the ‘could-have-been’ category of players by media and fans alike.

This isn’t to say Berdych was without success pre the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open. He ended 2009 ranked in the top twenty for the fourth straight year, helped by fourth round results at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Prior to 2009, Berdych had claimed titles at Tokyo (2008), Halle (2007), and the ATP Masters Series Paris in 2005. He first cracked the top ten in 2006 and has always been regarded as a dangerous player. What Berdych hasn’t been is consistent and mentally steady. Despite his solid results, the general consensus is that Berdych could have achieved a lot more by now. Take, for example, his fourth round match at last year’s Australian Open. He led the then number two seed, Roger Federer, by two sets to love. He had played remarkable tennis, thumping forehands and serves past the struggling Federer. One of the biggest upsets in tennis’ recent history was on the racquet of Berdych. It wasn’t to be. He suddenly seemed to realise that he was playing against history, the nerves struck and he handed the third set to Federer. Federer never looked back. Berdych walked off court with exactly the same reputation as he had when he struck the first ball. A talented player who lacks the willpower and nerve to push himself to the next level.

Throughout the rest of 2009 there was little evidence of anything changing, Berdych taking his lone title at Munich on clay. There were no signs on changes in Berdych at the start of 2010. There were no suprising results to speak of except a disappointing loss in the second round of the Australian Open. However, something did change. He lost a close quarter-final at Indian Wells to Rafael Nadal but it was in no way a negative loss. He didn’t hang his head or stop fighting. Come the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Berdych appeared hungry and in fine form. He pulled a massive upset over Roger Federer on his route to the final. Granted, Federer wasn’t playing his best tennis, but only a year ago Federer would have walked away the winner. This time around Berdych didn’t let Federer get a way with anything. He blasted winner after winner and kept his cool, winning in the third set tiebreak after facing match point. Berdych followed up his win over Federer by beating Fernando Verdasco in the quarter finals. Once again the way Berdych won was even more impressive than the scalp itself. Verdasco led by a set and a break before the Czech fought back to win in three. Fighting had hardly been a word in his vocabulary before Miami, suddenly it was his trademark of the tournament. He beat Robin Soderling surprisingly easily in the semi-finals and set up a clash with Roddick, the two having already played twice in 2010.

The fairytale run of Berdych may have been stopped by the American 7-5 6-4 to the thunderous applause of the Miami crowd, but Berdych had already proven himself to be a force that planned on sticking around. After the match many expected Berdych to be content with his tournament, he had played a decent final and was beaten by an extremely solid Roddick. When confronted with the statement that he must be satisfied, he at first agreed before pausing to think. ‘ Actually, well, not as satisfied as I would be if I be sitting here as a winner’. It showed the kind of winning attitude that has been missing throughout his whole career. He may finally have the belief he needs and recognises that a little more patience and persistance could get him a whole lot further. ‘ Just waiting for another match, just another opportunity. Waiting for chances. Hopefully it’s gonna come’.

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