x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai Tennis Championships: Tomas Berdych out to bring down barriers

The Czech knows he must back up big wins of his past over the top four to claim a grand slam title.

Tomas Berdych has had the quality but could not translate that into a grand slam win. Mohammed Salem / Reuters
Tomas Berdych has had the quality but could not translate that into a grand slam win. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

Tomas Berdych was a novice on the ATP Tour with only five wins and 14 matches behind him when he grabbed the headlines with a sensational victory over Roger Federer in the second round of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Federer had won three of the last five grand slams at the time and was the reigning world No 1. Berdych was the No 79 then, but he has risen up the tennis hierarchy since.

He is now ranked No 6 and is one of only three players to have beaten Federer more than once at a grand slam since the Swiss took the 2003 Wimbledon crown.

Rafael Nadal leads that list with eight wins over Federer in grand slams, the world No 1 Novak Djokovic has five while Berdych has done it twice.

But unlike the other two, the 27-year-old Czech has yet to go on to win a grand slam after conquering Federer.

Berdych, who beat Tobias Kamke 7-5, 6-1 to reach the last eight of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday, appears at No 2 on a list of the "10 best tennis players (both men and women) never to win a grand slam tournament" compiled by Forbes.com last year.

Andy Murray was top of that list, but he has since won the US Open and Berdych can take some inspiration from that.

"It is nice to see that Andy was able to actually break that winning streak [in grand slams] of just those three guys [Federer, Nadal and Djokovic]," Berdych said in Abu Dhabi in December.

"It is just so positive and gives me extra motivation that it is possible to do it.

"I am looking forward to that and I hope this is going to be the season for me."

Murray had made it to four grand slam finals and lost before he won the US Open last year.

Berdych has made just one appearance in a grand slam finale - at 2010 Wimbledon, where he stopped Federer in the quarter-finals and beat Djokovic in the semi-finals, but fell in straight sets to Nadal in the final.

"If you want to win a grand slam, you have to beat at least three of them [the top four]," Berdych said at the Australian Open, where he reached the last eight. "Then it's really tough. But that's how it is.

"Today's tennis is really, really strong. I think we are in the best era of our sport ever. It's the same for everybody.

"I think we are all trying our best to break that huge barrier in front of us. If this happened for me, then it would be, I would say, at least 10 times better than it would have been before."

The domination of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and now Murray - has created a second tier in men's tennis that features Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer.

Juan Martin del Potro is the only man from outside the top four to win a grand slam tournament since the 2005 Australian Open.

But Berdych has still managed to win eight titles on the tour and last year he helped the Czech Republic to the Davis Cup title.

He is also the first Czech with three successive top-10 season finishes since Ivan Lendl had 13 in a row from 1980 to 1992.

"I've had a terrific season in 2012 and it has been just amazing, especially to win the Davis Cup final in Prague," Berdych said. "It feels just great because I really like to play team events for my country. What's more, we are the only country to win the Hopman Cup, Fed Cup and Davis Cup in one year."

And a grand slam could be next for Berdych, if you believe Lleyton Hewitt.

The Australian veteran, a former world No 1, is confident the Czech will be the next man to win a grand slam after Murray's breakthrough win in September.

"Berdych is a quality player and capable of beating anyone on any given day," Hewitt, who had predicted Murray's Olympic triumph last summer, said earlier this year.

"The hardest thing for him has been backing up. He's got to beat two or three of those guys in a row to win a grand slam. That's the toughest thing to do."

Berdych will be hoping Hewitt's predictions come true again. He would dearly like to end his career with at least one major to his name. "I'm trying my best every day to get to that goal and win maybe one of the grand slam titles," Berdych said. "That would be enough for me.

"If the day comes, all right. On the other hand, those four guys were able to win grand slams, many grand slams, so probably they deserve it more than us so far."


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