DUBAI // Tomas Berdych is intent on ditching the label of the ATP Tour’s nearly man. The big-serving Czech has reached the semi-final at each of the four grand slam tournaments and, in 2010, went one better to appear in the final at Wimbledon.
Yet, he for ever seems to fall at the penultimate hurdle; for ever generates the feeling of so close but so far.
This year marks an important season for Berdych, who turns 29 in September.
He reached three Tour finals in 2013, including the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, yet failed to convert any of them, ending the year with no titles for the first time since 2010. He also fell at the quarter-finals in Melbourne and at the All England.
It is understandable to assume Berdych would be keen to draw a line under the previous year and start afresh. His early season performances, in which he has won 13 from 14 matches and taken a first title of the year in Rotterdam, would certainly suggest he has arrived a new player.
Yet last night at the Aviation Club, having dispatched Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-1 in less than an hour, Berdych said, in his mind at least, last season is yet to end.
“Honestly I wouldn’t call it the start of the season because I still have a feeling that my last season is not over yet and so I just keep going,” he said. “Really, the time in between seasons is so short that I basically just kind of smoothly arrived in Australia and started to play again.
“I mean, I’ve had good results which make me really happy, so I just need to keep going and keep my consistency because the season is very long.
“It’s not going to be about these past two months. Everyone is going to forget it very fast if you start losing and I’m in the position that I really need to have a good whole season.”
Beaten by Novak Djokovic in the final here last year, Berdych faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in today’s quarter-final. Should he safely negotiate past the fifth seed, he is likely to face a more obliging semi-final following the retirement of Juan Martin del Potro in the first round. Overcome that and Djokovic is expected to greet him in the final once again.
Berdych is high on confidence and has looked at times like he can hardly put a foot wrong.
Resultantly, it comes as a surprise to hear his answer when asked whether he feels his game is better now than it was 12 months ago.
“Honestly, so far, no,” Berdych said. “I hope it’s going to get there eventually, but there is still a lot to improve. It’s day by day; I manage to go through, just getting used to the conditions, playing well, and that’s it. But really, it’s hard to compare things from one year ago.”
For now, Berdych is simply excitedly anticipating his next game. “He [Jo-Wilfried] really likes these very fast conditions as it’s something that really suits his game and all the matches we have played were very close,” he said.
“They have always proved great battles, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
BERDYCH COMMITS TO THE INDIAN TENNIS LEAGUE
Tomas Berdych has thrown his weight behind the embryonic International Premier Tennis League, the five-city, five-team tournament that is the brainchild of Mahesh Bhupathi, the Indian doubles player.
The format of the IPTL is based on cricket’s Indian Premier League.
Reports yesterday suggested Rafael Nadal, the world No 1, has been offered US$1 million (Dh3.7m) per night to compete.
Roger Federer said earlier this week that he was not interested, but many other high-profile players – including Berdych – have proven more open to the lucrative concept.
“It’s a very big and ambitious plan, which I think is a good idea,” Berdych said. “It’s something that can make our sport even more attractive and bring something extra to the players. I’m looking forward to it and will be really glad if I’m going to become the star.”
Berdych also confirmed he has, after much deliberation, signed on to take part in the project.
“Of course, I took the time to think about it and really considered what’s going to be the positives and negatives for me, how much of my time it’s going to take and everything. After all that, I decided I will commit.”
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