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No Doubting Tomas


by Barry Flatman | 01.11.2012

Tomas BerdychFew, if any, hit the ball harder than Tomas Berdych. And, as Barry Flatman of The Sunday Times writes, Berdych believes he is getting closer to achieving his goals.

Tomas Berdych has the misfortune of playing in what many perceive to be the strongest era of all time. He is an established figure in the world’s Top 10, and he has one of the most powerful games the sport has ever seen, but, as he says, “It’s really tough to be playing in this era with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

The tall Czech is one of the few players outside the top four to have won an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Just a couple of months ago, a combination of Murray and a howling wind conspired to deny him a place in the US Open final. However, he’s beaten all of the top four, including scoring two memorable wins at the expense of Federer. The first of those, in the 2010 Wimbledon quarter-finals, hit the sport like a thunderclap and he went on to play in his first Grand Slam final, finishing as the runner-up to Nadal. The second came at the same stage of this year’s US Open.

Tomas BerdychBerdych believes that he doesn’t have to do too much tinkering with his tennis. Those flat-hit ground strokes, which travel at a speed that few can match, cause problems for even the best and, in weather conditions more benign than on that blustery afternoon on the US Open’s Arthur Ashe Stadium when he played Murray, his serve is one of the great weapons. So on an indoor court, like the one at The O2 in London, with variables such as wind no longer a factor, opponents know they have to brace themselves for a potential bombardment.

There is, of course, a little bit more to it than just that, and as Berdych admits, you do need a little bit of luck. “It helps to get in the side of the draw where you’re not going to face so many of them because they are really consistent. I’m just trying my best every day to get to that goal.”

Winning the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals would be the biggest title of Berdych’s career so far. This is the third time that he has competed in the season-ending championships. Things are on an upward curve for the first Czech to figure repeatedly in the year-end Top 10 since former Australian Open champion Petr Korda a couple of decades ago.

Berdych’s debut in 2010 could best be described as a learning experience as he beat Andy Roddick in the initial round-robin phase but lost out in straight sets to both Djokovic and Nadal. But last year things were much improved, after what he regarded as a good draw, as he scored victories over David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic (a replacement for the injured Murray).

Tomas BerdychHe also held a match point against Djokovic but failed to take advantage. In the semi-finals, he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, though the onset of a fever might have had something to do with that. Under the guidance of coach Tomas Krupa, he arrives in London this week intent on going even further.

If Berdych’s indoor form this season is anything to go by – he won the titles in Montpellier and Stockholm, and reached the semi-finals in Rotterdam – he is a man to watch.

The Davis Cup final against Spain in Prague is a tremendous incentive to maintain his form right to the end of the season. Nevertheless, this is the week which will examine whether he can truly compete with the men who stand at the top of the game.

Does he think the gap is closing? “On one hand it’s very far; on the other it’s quite close,” he maintained. “I’m doing what I think is the best and I’m trying to do it every day.”