A former champion at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Tomas Berdych takes on last week’s Montpellier finalist Richard Gasquet – a familiar foe – in the second round in Rotterdam on Thursday.
Former top-10 players Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet face off for a place in the quarterfinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Thursday in Rotterdam.
After winning just two matches in his first five appearances at the Ahoy Rotterdam, Tomas Berdych has found success in recent years at the 500-level event which highlights February’s European indoors tournaments. A quarterfinalist in 2011, Berdych made the semifinals in 2012, captured the title in 2014 beating Marin Cilic in the final and finished runner-up on his return in 2015 to Stan Wawrinka.
Berdych now owns a 17-7 record at the tournament run by Richard Krajicek and the former Wimbledon finalist will be hoping for a return to former glories in Rotterdam. Seeded fourth this year, it’s been a mixed start to the season for Berdych: The Czech, a stalwart of the top 10 for many years, started 2017 at world no. 10 and made a solid run to the semifinals of the 250-level Qatar ExxonMobil Open, but was ousted in straight sets by Andy Murray. Now teamed up with Goran Ivanisevic, a partnership that doesn’t seem to be yielding particularly impressive results (yet), Berdych had the misfortune to be drawn to meet 17th-seeded Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open and was blown off the court in straight sets by a vintage Federer – and while onlookers might have felt that Berdych offered little resistance to the eventual champion, Berdych was keen to emphasize how well Federer played in that match in Melbourne when he spoke ahead of his first match in Rotterdam.
‘It was kind of a strange match for me,’ Berdych said. ‘The way he played was really incredible. I’ve played him so many times in the past. I almost want to say it was the best I’ve seen him play.’
As a result of failing to defend his Australian Open semifinal points from 2016, Berdych slid down the rankings to world no. 13, but the Czech is insistent that there is still good stuff to come from him in his career.
‘I have been working on my service motion, since I returned from injury and sickness,’ Berdych said. ‘So it’s not been a long time, but it’s working well. I tried it a couple of times in Australia, but it was windy. I’ve been trying to make it less predictable - good for me, not for my opponents. Goran, who'll return courtside in Indian Wells, is also trying to bring me more to the net.
‘[…] In the past when some players reached 31 or 32, it might have been one of their last seasons. But it isn’t any more. Tennis at the highest level sees players with their own physios and teams. It really helps and extends careers. Players are taking more breaks in between and it helps to prolong careers. I hope I can play my best tennis in the future.’
Returning to action for the first time since that defeat, Berdych opened with a straight-sets win over qualifier Marius Copil 7-6(3), 6-4, and the indoor conditions in Rotterdam should suit him – especially where his high ball-toss on the serve is concerned.
It’s not an easy draw for Berdych, however. Defending champion Martin Klizan, an unpredictable lefty powerhouse, is already waiting in the quarterfinals and to get to a match vs Klizan, Berdych will have to beat Richard Gasquet.
A year younger than Berdych at 30, Gasquet belongs to the same category of veterans, although he has never reached a Grand Slam final or been able to match Berdych’s longevity in the top 10. A Montpellier and Antwerp champion in 2016, the year he finally made the quarterfinals of the French Open, Gasquet has struggled with a back injury in recent seasons and ended last year on the brink of dropping out of the top 20 after starting it at world no. 10.
Still, it’s been a good start to 2017 for Gasquet. He made the third round of the Australian Open, an advance on last year’s inability to appear due to injury, before losing to in-form Grigor Dimitrov and won easily when he took the court for a singles rubber in France’s first-round Davis Cup tie with Japan, beating Taro Daniel in straight sets. In Montpellier last week, Gasquet was unable to defend his title but he came close, reaching the final before losing to Alexander Zverev, and those runner-up points ensured that he has stayed just inside the top 20 at world no. 19.
Gasquet has a very average record in Rotterdam, where he is 5-4, but opened his 2017 campaign with a very solid 6-4, 6-2 win over Viktor Troicki. He and Berdych know each other well, having played 15 times over the course of their careers, but while the overall head-to-head is quite even – 8-7 in Berdych’s favour – Berdych has won five of the last six they have played against each other, including their last encounter, a tight three-set affair in the final of the Shenzhen Open. With conditions in Rotterdam definitely in Berdych’s favour, the Czech looks set to be the one who comes through to a quarterfinal clash with defending champion Martin Klizan.
Berdych vs Gasquet is scheduled on Centre Court in Rotterdam on Thursday at 11am local/10am GMT