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Unsung Berdych out to go one better in Dubai

Dubai: Tomas Berdych is savouring the opportunity to go one better than he did in 2013 and lift the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title when the tournament returns later this month.

Last year the Czech stunned defending champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals before falling to world number one Novak Djokovic.

Berdych, a semi-finalist at the opening Grand Slam of the year in Australia last month, has won eight singles career titles and finished as runner-up in 11 further finals. Among those final defeats, one came at Wimbledon in 2010 and his run of victories at the All England Club first elevated him into the world’s top 10, where he has stayed ever since.

He has also led the Czech Republic to Davis Cup victories in both 2012 and 2013, establishing himself alongside other great Czech players of the past such as Tomas Smid, Jan Kodes and Ivan Lendl. But, although he has joined them on the Davis Cup roll of honour, he insists that is where the comparisons end.

“They won the Davis Cup and I have two cups, they have only one. But, really, I’m only in one small aspect better than them,” he said. “All of them won many Grand Slams. I mean, really, I should stay in the corner.

“The great thing was to play the final and Ivan [Lendl] was sitting there in Prague and we played in front of him. That was a very special moment to win after so many years, and him being there.”

Berdych tends to be a quiet achiever, the player that many fail to pay attention to as he works his way through the draw, even though he can regularly be found battling for titles. He is a constant presence inside the top 10 and rose as high as five in the rankings in August last year.

Although the spotlight is usually somewhere else, that’s the way he likes it. “I think it doesn’t make that much difference. Or I would say it’s maybe even better for myself,” he said.

“I mean, let’s leave all the pressure on them. You know, everybody’s talking about how many Grand Slams this guy can win. You get so much pressure on the court and you don’t have to have it around as well.”

Berdych will be in action in Dubai in the week beginning February 24, the week after the women open the Dubai Duty Free Championships.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free, said: “Tomas Berdych put on an astonishing performance last year to defeat our five-time champion Roger Federer. The match was one of the most exciting of the tournament, as he saved three match points before going on to reach his first final here.

“He is the perfect example of a player who prefers to keep a low profile and let his racquet do the talking and, even though he quietly goes about his business, everyone he faces will be in no doubt that they are going to have to produce their very best to overcome him.”

Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added: “After watching his great run at the Australian Open, we are looking forward to seeing Berdych take on another mighty challenge in Dubai. He will face some tough opposition though as he comes up against four other members of the top 10, including not only Federer and Djokovic, but also Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.”

Also lying in wait will be Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the Australian Open by beating world number five and former US Open champion Del Potro in the second round.

Tickets are on sale from Dubai Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, which is open from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand ticket prices range from Dh75 for opening rounds to Dh500 for finals, with season tickets also available.

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