Berdych clinches Japan title
Oct. 5, 2008 - A determined Tomas Berdych and a sour stomach managed to stop the Argentine express that had been plowing through the ATP tour.
The Czech Republic's Berdych, riding an explosive serve, picked up his first title of the year by crushing Juan Martin Del Potro 6-1, 6-4 Sunday in the final of the 869,000 dollars AIG Japan Open in front of 8,864 at Tokyo's Ariake Colosseum.
"In these conditions and this level of tennis, the main thing is to keep consistent," said the ninth-seeded Berdych. "I was able to do that all week and am thrilled to win the title."
In winning his fourth career ATP title and first since Halle in June 2007, Berdych became the third Czech to win in Japan after Ivan Lendl in 1980 and Jiri Novak in 2004.
The 20-year-old Del Potro, the fifth seed, had been among the hottest players on the tour in the past six months, taking four straight tournaments before reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.
But bothered by an upset stomach that caused him to take two injury timeouts and medicine in the first set, he never looked like the same player who had won 29 of his last 30 matches leading up to the final.
"I was feeling confused," Del Potro said. "He played a great match. After the first set, I started to play better but it was too late."
Berdych, who fired 11 aces and had no double faults, broke a sluggish Del Potro's serve in the third and fifth games of the first set, which he finished off in 24 minutes.
The Czech got an early break to go up 2-1 in the second set before Del Potro came back to life. But Berdych rose to the challenge, never losing serve and winning the 1-hour 17-minute match when the Argentine sent a service return long.
"If you start the point well with a good serve, you have the advantage, you can play more aggressive and that's what my game is about," said Berdych, who earned 135,000 dollars for the win.
The 23-year-old Berdych could sympathize with Del Potro's physical problems. He said he injured his knee losing to Tommy Robredo in the final at Bastad in July, his only other final appearance this year, and is only now feeling back in match shape.
Berdych has seen his ranking sink from a career-high ninth in August 2007 to 27th, but with a strong showing in Bangkok and here--including a dramatic three-set comeback win over Andy Roddick in the semifinals--things are looking up.
"Everyone is so close, everyone is so tough, it's all about confidence and feeling on the court," Berdych said. "If you can win one or two matches, everything comes together."