By Jane Voigt
Washington D.C. — Tomas Berdych wants to get to the top, like any other tour player. But as much as fans and media now think the big boys — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer — are vulnerable way up there in the lofty heights, Berdych, Citi Open’s No. 1 seed this week, has his doubts.
“It’s really hard to explain it in another word, but it’s really tough,” Berdych told a gathering of press this afternoon. “I’m trying to do my best. Working hard every day. Even to keep my place over quite a few years is a really good result. When you see, though, how good they are. Not only there. If you look at the top 100, it’s not easy. If there is some recipe I’d like to know it. All of us are trying, which makes the good competition.”
Tomas is currently ranked No. 5 in the ATP. He has been a consistent face in the top 10 since July 5, 2010. Considering the pressure thrown his way in the form of fierce forehands, serves clocked at 135+ M.P.H., and surfaces and conditions that change day in and day out, his performance on tour has been stellar. He has made the semifinals of all four slams, and the final of Wimbledon in 2010 where he lost to Rafael Nadal.
This is Berdych’s fourth D.C. appearance. He made the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2010, and the semifinals in 2005 when he lost to the now retired American, James Blake. The other players he defeated that year — Wayne Arthurs, Sebastien Grosjean and Bobby Reynolds — have all retired since, Reynolds hanging up his racquet two days ago after helping secure The Washington Kastles’ fourth consecutive World Team Tennis title.
Berdych is at that age — 28 — when questions start. How fit are you? Why did you take such a long break after Wimbledon?
“Right after Wimbledon we took a week off and went to Greece,” Berdych said. “Just completely relaxed. No play, nothing to do. Really just enjoying the free time. It’s something that me and my body really needed. The season was long for me. It gives me time to prepare, to have some good practice sessions, and recharge the batteries.”
With regard to Tomas’s body … all anyone has to do is pick up this year’s issue of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue and see how fit he is. Those toned muscles don’t appear without meticulous attention.
“I was approached and was very excited,” he said, about the first time ESPN The Magazine asked him to pose for this annual block-buster issue. “It was something new, unique. It’s a very well known event, I would say. And, with the world-class athletes there; it was a honor to do that.”
Tomas thought that, on a whole, reactions were positive to his buff body exposures. He chuckled when encouraged to do it again, perhaps next year.
Berdych has had time to hit on the deco-turf courts of Rock Creek Park a couple times since arriving Thursday. How are they playing?
“It’s been 2 to 3 years ago [since I’ve been here] so it’s hard to compare,” he said. “It always depends on the weather. On Saturday it was really hot. It makes the conditions really fast. The balls really fly more. But, I think since it won’t be cold here it’s definitely going to be fast conditions overall this week.”
And if he could win a slam, which surface would it be on? “I made my first semifinal in Paris, on the clay, which I never thought I could do. Then I had a final in Wimbledon, which was even more bigger surprise for me. So, it’s hard to judge which is the best. I really like to play on the hard court. For me, that’s the best.”
Citi Open is no slam, but it is the only ATP World Tour 500-level tournament in North America. With things still tight at the top, points and prestige are welcomed any week.