Tomas Berdych's new ATP autograph card speaks to his rise in the ATP rankings.
August 30, 2007 - By Max Dickstein
A new men's tennis tour marketing effort recently produced a card for Tomas Berdych to sign for fans who seek his autograph.
On it, the world's No. 9 player pumps his fist -- a somewhat unusual manifestation of the 21-year-old Czech's intensity -- as a fiery meteor slingshots off in the direction of his gaze.
But "meteoric" is not the word that best describes Berdych's rise to the top 10 "steady" would be better. The moment Berdych turned professional in 2002, he began pacing himself for a deliberate rise, steadily compiling ATP points until broke into the top 100 two years later. This month, after he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and lost to Rafael Nadal, Berdych entered the ATP top 10.
"It's much better to get it in a few steps," Berdych said in an interview at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday afternoon.
"The most important thing at the top is consistency of the results, not just to win one tournament and then, for four months, nothing -- to have some huge goals and then not make it."
The 6-foot-5 Berdych, the ninth seed at this U.S. Open, is a dark horse candidate to give the top seeds in his portion of the draw trouble -- including last year's U.S. Open finalists, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer, whom he could face in the fourth round and quarterfinals, respectively.
Berdych calmly defeated unseeded Simone Bolelli of Italy on Thursday, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Spain's Fernandno Verdasco awaits in the third round.
As the youngster sat in the shade of an outdoor bar in the players' area Wednesday, an interview location that he suggested himself, Berdych described the routines that have been helpful accompaniments to his five-year ascent.
Every week, his Czech friends are his companions on the tour, with some Slovaks mixed in. The movies he likes are whichever new ones are playing at the theater. Denzel Washington has always been his favorite movie star, and U2 his preferred band.
Berdych and his girlfriend, also a Czech tennis pro, have been together for five years. Lucie Safarova, seeded 20th here, won in straight sets Wednesday to reach the third round. His freckled cheeks, long locks and towering stature have earned Berdych some enthusiastic fan Web sites, however, despite his romantic unavailability.
On court, the lanky Berdych does not play as if he's on stilts -- he has a 130-plus mph serve and the inclination to come in after it.
"You start with a good pressure on the opponent with a good serve, and then just step up to court and try to make some winners," Berdych said. "When I'm so tall, I have some problems with the movement. That's what I need to work on all the time."
Of the six tournament finals he's reached, he's won three. And along with No. 3 Novak Djokovic, Berdych is the only player to have beaten Federer and Nadal since they've been ranked 1 and 2. (He beat Federer at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.) Some wonder whether Berdych's entry into the top 10 represents his peak.
Others expect that if he puts another consistent year together, Berdych will rise even further.
"I try for the best I can," he said. "If I can finish the year with the 10th place in the world, it's going to be fantastic. Winning matches like the the third-rounder against Verdasco will help Berdych reach that goal, steady as he goes.