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Tomas Berdych turns on the power

Tomas Berdych Miami Masters 2010

From The Sunday Times

April 4, 2010 | Barry Flatman

Tomas Berdych turns on the power

The Masters Series final in Miami today will not be a thing of beauty as the Czech player hopes to beat Andy Roddick

There is a lot of Ivan Lendl in Tomas Berdych and that makes today’s Sony Ericsson Open final against Andy Roddick an intriguing affair. Like his Czech predecessor, the 6ft 5in giant has never been a man who appears to hold much regard for reputations or the wishes of fans. Indeed, it seems that he loves to alienate himself from the paying public so it’s fair to assume he will derive added pleasure by thwarting American hopes at Key Biscayne.

Back in the late 1980s, Lendl twice won this title and delighted in a couple of stormy wins over Jimmy Connors that sent fans home angry and feeling out of pocket. Victory for 16th-seeded Berdych today would have a similar effect.

Roddick lives in Texas these days but spent his school years just up the coast at Boca Raton and insists that this feels like his home event. The spectators happily subscribe to that view and it doesn’t matter to them that a member of the world’s top five will not figure in the final for the first time this century. If Roddick, the world No 8, collects the trophy and $605,000 winner’s cheque it will be a perfect day for him.

Berdych has other plans. He alienated himself from Spanish fans by raising his fingers to his lips to hush the Madrid crowd before ramming home a point to beat Rafael Nadal. And it was Berdych who denied Roger Federer the Olympic gold medal the Swiss player so craved in Athens in 2004 and registered one of only four wins in nearly 90 matches against the world No 1 that year. Last week he dealt Federer another blow, coming through a three hour-plus encounter in a final-set tie-break.

“I will try to be as Lendl,” said Berdych as he prepared for an eighth meeting with Roddick and tried to purge the memory of two defeats against the American early this year on hard courts in Brisbane and San Jose. “The matches against him are always close,” he said. “In San Jose I dropped just two points on serve in each set but still lost in two tie-breaks.”
The serving of both men has been exemplary in this tournament. In the semi-final, Berdych beat the hard-hitting Swede Robin Soderling 6-2 6-2 in just 68 minutes, winning 85% of the points on his first serve against the fifth seed. Nadal made no impression on Roddick, who served 15 aces and got 66% of first serves into play.

Return of serve will be key to the match and in that regard Berdych seems to have the edge, as Roddick reached the final without having to face a server out of the top bracket.
The American believes he knows what to expect, saying: “He hits very hard and flat, and isn’t interested in rallying. He takes it out of your hands a little bit.” Roddick has anxieties of his own. Since losing that marathon Wimbledon final against Federer last year, folding at 16-14 in the fifth set, he has contested four finals but won only once. A fortnight ago in Indian Wells, he was the emphatic favourite to prevail in the year’s first Masters 1000 Series tournament against Ivan Ljubicic but lost 7-6 7-6.

That final was also an encounter between two hard-serving contestants, neither revered for their return game. Roddick was mortified by his defeat that day, and admits: “Intensity hasn’t been my problem. Execution has been my problem. There’s a difference between hoping to win and expecting to win. We are experts in the art of delusion.”