Toss, whack, 15-0. Toss, whack, 30-0. Toss, whack, 40-0. Toss, whack, Game Berdych. This could be an acoustic pattern when Tomas Berdych is at his powerful best. His gameplan is not Joycean in its complexity, rather Artic in winter cold — big serve, big forehand — but it’s mighty efficient. Another era, another time, he would have easily been in the top-five bracket. But not when one has to consistently play Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic on a routine basis. Hence, he finds himself stranded on the number six spot.
“You look at the guys in front of me, each of them is a tough opponent. The player closest to me is David Ferrer, but even he had a great last season and won seven titles or so,” he observed with an unmistakable tinge of annoyance.
Like most of the top-ten players — with honorable exceptions — he hasn’t attached a Grand Slam to his trophy cabinet, much like Andy Murray before his US Open triumph last year. This may not frustrate him to the point of dejection, but he sure is desperate for the elusive piece of metal. “It’s many things. It could be a mental thing or it could be about experience. And you need a bit of luck as in the conditions. Like last year, it can sometimes blow your game away. The tournaments are long and you have to be at the top of your game for two weeks. You have to be patient and wait for your chances. When it comes, you have to seize those,” he reckoned.
“Conditions” he repeatedly stressed and couldn’t have been but thinking of his US Open semifinal with Murray, when he was consumed in the wind that howled at the Arthur Ashe Stadium for nearly four hours, suffocating his high-toss serve and spreading doubt in his every move. Murray held off the gangly Berdych’s early assault and a later charge to win the match
Many, including Lleyton Hewitt, reckons this as his breakthrough season — usually a contradiction when you are talking of a top-ten player. But it is in a generation of baseline metronomes. “There are many goals. The first is to keep myself injury free for the season, or at least the most of it. Last season was good and I won a few big games. This season I want to achieve something that I couldn’t achieve last season. I need big results in the Grand Slams,” said Berdych on his goal for 2013
It turned out for Djokovic, winning the Davis Cup propelled him to scale higher peaks. “For me it gave some experience and confidence,” he stated.
An all-court player, he asserts he hasn’t any preferred surface. I’ve been able to win tournaments on all surfaces. I’ve reached the Wimbledon final, semifinals of French and the US Opens. So there is nothing like any preference,” he said.