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Tomas Berdych: Reborn at 24
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Even after following professional tennis for the past 20 years or so, I failed to recognize Tomas Berdych till March this year. Despite his marvellous Masters Series win in Paris in 2005, Berdych fell short of the feats that bring you to the top of the list. Perhaps it was Federer's star power that brought Berdych into the limelight when he won a nail-biter in Miami in March this year against the Swiss maestro. However, Berdych finally came out of the shadow of being termed as a giant-killer to being an ATP giant himself after his swashbuckling runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
With his five singles titles and a semifinal and runner up finishes in French Open and Wimbledon, Tomas Berdych is one of the most sought after players in men's tennis today. Despite all these achievements, Berdych's most remarkable feat is his back-to-back triumphs over Roger Federer.
Berdych's game is a fine mix of counter punching shots from the baseline and flat hitting from both serve and forehand. The Czech utilizes his tall 6'5'' frame to the maximum by hitting flat serves, something which bothered both Murray and Federer to the core during the 2010 season. Berdych's strongest ally is his approach to go for his shots. He has developed an ability to hit low percentage shots with equal success rate. The same tenacity is found in Spaniard Rafael Nadal's game who hits delightful winners from both flanks, especially on a defensive position. This quality gives Nadal an upper hand over all his competitors. Berdych may be a work in progress but his performance has put him in the A-League.
It may sound a little surprising, but over the years, Berdych has shown impressive consistency with a title win in almost every year(except 2006) since 2004. After some 7 years on tour, Berdych finally seems to have arrived, in a real way. Berdych belongs to that crop of challengers who have carved a niche for themselves. Last year, Juan Martin Del Potro failed to claim a big title until his major triumph at Flushing Meadows. Who knows, whether Berdych is on the same road as well?
We writers have a tendency to speak metaphorically and bring analogies to almost every possible situation. I remember terming Del Potro's U.S. Open win over Federer very much similar to Marat Safin's popular win over legendary Pete Sampras in 2000. True to form, I am obligated to tag Berdych's consecutive wins over Federer similar to Del Potro's repeated wins over Rafael Nadal last year. I believe the idea behind highlighting such a trivia is to remind the readers that Berdych is the latest addition to the Challenger brigade in men's tennis which, when put together is worthy of dethroning the two ironmen of tennis- Rafa and Roger.
Many consider Berdych's Wimbledon final fizzle out to be a let down due to the high level of expectations set by experts the world over. The way Berdych overwhelmed third seed Novak Djokovic in three sets gave a clear indication that an upset is definitely on cards. But things somehow took a u-turn in the championship final when Berdych primarily fell victim to grand stage syndrome. To add fuel to the fire, Nadal emerged in top form and did not give any opportunity to the Czech in claiming a three set win.
It will be a while before Berdych proves his mettle but this Czech is definitely here to stay. Berdych's impressive match strategy, coupled with his court coverage and wide wing span at the net is worthy of clinching victories at major stages as well, It, perhaps is JUST A MATTER OF TIME.
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