Tomas Berdych gets his Monte-Carlo Masters campaign underway this afternoon a first round tie against Russia’s Andre Kuznetsov.
For so long Berdych maintained a top-eight position in the world rankings, which would have been good enough to grant him a bye into the second round in Monte Carlo, but the big Czech has fallen- slightly- off his consistent ways, and finds himself stuck at number 13 in the world, thereby having to endure the extra round in Monte Carlo.
A major reason for Berdych’s slide down the rankings was his shock opening round loss at Monte Carlo last year. He fell to Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur, and as a result, lost a huge chunk of the points he had accrued from reaching the final in the previous season. The Czech will be keen to make amends for that with a run in the principality this year.
Berdych’s 2016 was not as poor a season as it would seem on the surface; he still reached the quarter finals or better in three of the four Grand Slams- which is standard for the Czech (missed the US Open because of appendicitis)- and reached a handful of quarter finals and semi-finals through the course of the season (picked up a title in Shenzhen as well), but there were just a little bit too many of those losses like the one in Monte Carlo. He was hurt by one really terrible patch of three straight defeats in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Vienna late in the year. The unforgiving nature of the rankings means runs like that will not go unpunished.
Berdych has again not been terrible this year, reaching semi-finals in Dubai and Rotterdam, and the quarter-finals in Miami, but with players like Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin finding form, reaching finals and winning titles; quarter-finals and semi-finals may not be good enough to keep the 31-year-old in the top 10 any longer. He simply has got to find a way to do more.
To be fair, three of his six losses this year have been against Roger Federer (twice) and Andy Murray, but that really has been the story of the Czech’s career- not being able to find that extra level to get past those four big guys on a more consistent basis.
Berdych isn’t due to play any of the big four in Monte Carlo until a potential quarter final against Andy Murray, and so he has got a good chance to put some points on this board this week. He starts against Russia’s Andre Kuznetsov.
The 26-year-old Kuznetsov has come through two rounds of qualifying to take his place in the main draw, as he looks to revive a season that has faded away after such a good start.
Kuznetsov began the season with a solid semi-final in Sydney, but he then lost six of his next seven matches, including five straight opening round defeats between the Australian Open and Indian Wells as his ranking dropped outside the top 70, having begun the year ranked number 45 in the world.
Kuznetsov enjoyed a pretty decent run on clay last season, reaching the quarter finals in Barcelona and Geneva, and losing to Kei Nishikori in the second round of the French Open, and he has shown decent form in the Monte Carlo qualies, getting past Julien Benneteau and Mikhail Youzhny to set up this meeting with Berdych.
Berdych won their only previous meeting in St. Petersburg last year- a tight contest that went into a third set tie break, and with the Russian apparently well set on the Monte Carlo clay, against an opponent who will be playing his first match on the surface this season, this may develop into a tricky opener for the big Czech.