Czech star Tomas Berdych targeting glory at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Sport360 staff 13:20 25/01/2016
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  • Aiming for the title: Tomas Berdych.

    Tomas Berdych is determined to throw off his nearly-man image and finally be crowned winner of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

    No other player who has failed to lift the trophy has a better record in Dubai than Berdych, with two finals, two semi-finals and a quarter-final to his name in the last five years.

    He has, however, run into insurmountable opposition each time, with three defeats to Novak Djokovic and one each by Roger Federer and Andy Murray ending his challenges.

    In 2014, the 30-year-old stretched Federer to three sets in the final, and he did the same against Djokovic in the semi-finals last year before succumbing.

    With 12 career singles titles under his belt and another 17 final placings including at Wimbledon in 2010, the Czech clearly has what it takes and now he believes he might have found the key to end his frustration at so often coming off second-best.

    “I think it’s always going to start with the fitness,” he said.

    “I am a tall, quite heavy guy and when you want to compete with guys like Andy, Novak, Rafa (Nadal) and Roger, you are going to have to be extremely fit and be prepared for that. So fitness is going to be the first thing. I am not saying it’s bad now, but to reach that top level, I need to improve.

    “Once you have the physical fitness you can think ‘OK, now I am absolutely fine just to go there and not worry about anything else’. Then you can really focus on strategic plans and on the game.”

    Berdych can draw encouragement from the fact that he has already managed to overcome arguably his most difficult Dubai opponents.

    He has two wins over Djokovic, including a semi-final victory at Wimbledon, and two of his three wins over Federer came not only in the quarter-finals of the 2012 US Open but in the 2013 semi-final in Dubai. He has also earned five wins over another strong contender for the title, Stan Wawrinka.

    Whatever the outcome, Berdych will enjoy his time at what is one of the most popular tournaments on the ATP World Tour and clearly one of his favourites.

    “This tournament is so good, because of everything that comes with it,” he said.

    “The tournament does extremely well looking after the players, which is always very important. The players feel like home here, it’s very easy and very relaxed.

    “It’s one of the big tournaments, one of the ones you want to be a part of and compete in, and the whole package creates it. It’s a place where players like to be and like coming back to.”