Tomas Berdych a.k.a. The Birdman - A Fan Site since 2004

Work ethic pays off for Tomas Berdych

Work ethic pays off for Tomas Berdych

by Stewart Fisher | Herald Scotland

4 July 2010

Madrid 2006 - Tomas Berdych presses a finger to his lips as he walks back to his chair. He has just defeated home favourite Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the quarter-finals of an ATP Masters Series event and the gesture is directed at the Madrilenos in the audience who have suddenly fallen silent. Nadal meets him at the net, less to shake his hand than to pull him up about the matter. A heated conversation continues for a couple of uncomfortable seconds too long. YouTube has got a lot to answer for sometimes.

The pair have co-existed quite happily on the tour for four years since then without mentioning the incident, and have met on nine other occasions – the Czech winning a further two, and the Spaniard winning the rest – but a Wimbledon men’s singles final is a bit different. It was little wonder that the incident should rear its head again.

“It really is a long time ago and I think it is already forgotten from both or all sides who saw what happened,” Berdych said last night. “I think there was just quite a lot of emotions after the match from both of us. That is just what happens sometimes. I don’t see it as a big problem. I mean, we are friends normally. It is not like we are not going to say ‘hi’ to each other or anything like that.”

For all the pre-match pleasantries, there will be nothing pleasant about the ammunition that the 24-year-old from Valasske Mezirici will be serving up at his opponent out on Centre Court this afternoon. Only Nadal and his fellow Spaniard David Ferrer have won more matches than Berdych on the ATP Tour this season and the last six weeks have seen Berdych wreak havoc against some of the biggest reputations in tennis. He has won four of his five matches against top-five players this year, his victims now being Roger Federer (twice), Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Nadal so far is the only man to buck the trend, with a 6-4, 7-6 win at Indian Wells.

Three victories over Nadal in a career, however, is a record that most players would be happy to retire with. He and Berdych have only met once on grass before – Nadal winning the 2007 
quarter-final at SW19 in straight sets – and Berdych believes aggression will be the order of the day. To date, he has served 98 aces, exactly twice the Spaniard’s tally, and has never lost a five-set match at Wimbledon.

“I have to have some reason to believe that I have a chance,” Berdych said. “I mean, I have won so many matches here.
I have beaten some really great players here. It gives you the confidence to go and bring it to the final and try my best again on court. It is the final of a Grand Slam. You need to show your really best tennis to have a chance to win.

“It doesn’t happen in every match that you beat the first or second player in the world. The record of most of the other guys is worse than that. At least I have three wins against [Nadal] and can find out some positive things from those matches. I will try to get the fourth one here. I have never beaten him on grass so I think it is a nice opportunity to do it right here, right now.

“I think they key is to be aggressive because he [Nadal] has started to play really aggressive as well. In the first few years when I was playing him, he was really patient on court, moving well, and was waiting for opp-onent’s mistake. But in the last two or three years he starts to play really, really aggressive as well. So you need to be aggressive and not give him too many chances.”

To say Berdych is a late starter is to understate the case. His first Grand Slam semi-final, at the French Open last month, came on his 27th appearance, and he has already gone one better on his 28th attempt. Were he to win, he would become the 20th different Wimbledon
men’s champion of the open era and assume a career-high ranking of No 7 when the new list is finalised 
tomorrow. Already the first Czech man to reach the Wimbledon final since Ivan Lendl in 1987, he would be the first Czech winner of the title since Jan Kodes in 1973. “I wouldn’t say it is a dream,” Berdych said.

“It has been good results. But the results are coming after really hard work, and that is what I am doing. That is why I am preparing every day. It is not like it is happening like a miracle.”

Coach Tomas Krupa, with whom he was worked for the last 18 months at the Czech national tennis centre at Projestov, must take his share of the credit, along with his girlfriend Lucie Safarova. “I’m stronger mentally,” Berdych said. “I’m winning more and more matches. That gives you a lot of confidence. Of course, I am growing up as well. I am still pretty young but I am getting more experience by the week. And of course part of it is the work of my coaches.”

So is getting a good night’s kip. Don’t expect the big-hitting 6ft 5in Czech to have been up all night fretting about his first Grand Slam final.

“I have no problem with the sleeping
at all,” he said. “I did it after the 
Djokovic match, and Roger’s match. I hope it will be the same.”