From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.35 :: Sep. 02, 2010

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TENNIS / INTERVIEW/TOMAS BERDYCH

‘My favourite one will always be Wimbledon'

“I think it's still a lot of hard work before I get to the spot of number four or even higher. Right now I am eight and in this position it's tough to even move one step,” says Tomas Berdych in this email interview to Ayon Sengupta.

Tomas Berdych burst on the scene as a teen sensation in his country, winning almost every junior title before turning pro at just 16 in 2002. After initial success in the Futures, he won his first Masters 1000 title in Paris in 2005 and was ranked as high as No. 13 by the end of 2006. Progress thereafter was painfully slow, until 2010, his ‘breakout' year, saw him reach the semi-finals of the French Open and the final at Wimbledon (beating Federer and Djokovic on his way). In contention for a spot in the season-ending London Masters, the 6'5” Czech star talks to Sportstar about his immediate goals.

Question: A French Open semifinal and a Wimbledon final. The year 2010 has been kind to you. What do you think can be the ideal end to this season?

Answer: Well the ideal end for my season definitely will be if I can get to the last tournament of the year, the London Masters. I think it was one of our goals before the season, where I sit with my coach, and I said that I would like to, or we would like to get back to top-10. And the bonus of that will be to play the year-end Masters.

How do you see your chances of breaking into the top four and winning your maiden Grand Slam? Which of the four surfaces do you think favours you most?

I think it's still a lot of hard work before I get to the spot of number four or even higher. Right now I am eight and in this position it's tough to even move one step. So it's not that easy, so many things have to fall right. Definitely it's about playing well in big tournaments, like the Grand Slams, the 1000 series events. And to think to win some Grand Slams, you know when I came to Wimbledon if somebody told me I am going to play the final, I would have said it's nice but there are still six matches to win and it's going to be same for any other Slam. It's really a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck, a little bit of everything. But my favourite one I will say will always be Wimbledon.

What are your preparations for the US Open and how do you rate your chances there?

Preparations have already started. I took some rest after Wimbledon because it was really a lot of matches for me. It was hard competitive tennis for a month, a month and a half at a stretch, so I needed some rest. I played tournaments in Washington, Toronto and now Cincinnati after that. I will take a week long break next and then play the U.S. Open. I am going to take it the same way as I did in the previous two Grand Slams, try to be ready for my first match and then go step by step.

Given Nadal's current form, who do you think has the best game to beat him?

I think it's going to be names like Soderling, he is the only player who has beaten him in Roland Garros. He plays well against him on hard-courts too. But he is not the only one who has beaten him. Even I have beaten him a couple of times, but right now he is just in some different level, playing very well. I need to improve my game to get any closer to him. Of course Federer is there, we can never forget him. But you know tennis is nice where you never know who's going to play well, how the player is going to feel. And you need to be ready for so many days, it's not like football or whatever that you just prepare for one day in a week and then you just go there. It is very different and that's nice about the sport.

We all know Rafa is good on clay, with his movement and topspin. What are the most difficult things about his grass court play that you encountered in the Wimbledon final?

Well everybody knows he plays with a lot of spin, moving extremely well on court. But the thing where he has improved the most, which helped him to win on grass is his serve. He can serve much better than he did (before), using more of the left hand rotation and the slice. And then the other thing is that he can be much more aggressive than before. He was only, well not only quite defensive, but just running, waiting for the opponent's mistake. But now he can step on court be aggressive, just finish the ball really big and that's why he is the No. 1 in the world.

The only Grand Slam Nadal hasn't won is the U.S. Open. Do you think he will achieve that feat this year?

I think the U.S. Open or all the hard-court tournaments are extremely tough for him. Because you know the surface when it's really hard, it's really tough for the body to stay healthy. Then, he gets the problem with the knees. And it's not in the beginning of the year, when you are rested and fresh to play, this is like more after half the year and he has played so many matches. It depends. If he stays healthy then definitely he has the best chance this year.

What's been the difference in your game this year that has led to greater success? What areas of your game do you still need to work on?

I was all the time quite aggressive on court but right now I am more patient. I can wait a little more for the best situation, I have improved my serve and mentally I am much stronger than before. Even if you are No. 1 in the world you still have something to improve or do better. First thing for me is the movement on court, to be physically stronger than I am right now. If you just put in 100 percent you can get closer to guys like Nadal and Federer.

You have played in India before, reaching the final of the 2006 Kingfisher Airlines Open in Mumbai. How was your experience playing in India?

For me it was the first time when I came there and reached the final. It was a part of the world which was for me quite different and it was a nice experience, Everybody was really nice to me. I just enjoyed the week and I hope next year I can come back for the first week of the year to Chennai.

What are your other interests?

I like all other sports; I like cars, fast cars. Some racing. There's not much time to do anything else because the tennis schedule is so packed. Just the basic things, whatever you can do in hotel rooms, watch some movies, sometimes maybe go to the cinema.

The most successful Czech-origin players, Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova, both had strained ties with their parent country. Do you also have any plans of migration?

No definitely not. For them it was different, I can understand why they had reasons to do that. But right now I live in different years and the situation in Czech and in the world is completely different and I definitely have no reasons to leave my country. So I think I will forever remain a Czech player.



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