Berdych ready to step up


Czech player Tomas Berdych said Tuesday he is ready to break the stranglehold of the tennis elite who have taken the lion’s share of the major men’s tournaments in the past decade.

Only Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open winner, and Juan Martin del Potro at the same tournament in 2009, have broken the stranglehold of the current top five men’s players in the past 10 years.

Berdych, ranked number six but at 30 surely nearing the final years of his pro career, fell short at the semi-finals of the 2015 Australian Open, his best Grand Slam result this year.

“I am trying to get myself in the best possible shape next year,” the 13-year veteran told reporters in Manila when asked if he thought he would finally break his Grand Slam duck.

“My preparation, I think, is going pretty well,” the hard court specialist added.

Berdych is in Manila this week for the second leg of the International Premier Tennis League circuit, which began in Japan last week and will also have stops this month in India, Dubai and Singapore.

He reached a record-high ranking of fourth in May during a year in which he got married and also reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.

But he went furthest in Australia before being beaten in an explosive semi-final against Andy Murray, now the world’s second-ranked men’s player.

The first Grand Slam of 2016 starts in Melbourne on January 18.

For most of his professional career, Berdych has played in the shadow of the now third-ranked Roger Federer, fifth-ranked Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the world’s top player, who together have won 41 Grand Slam titles.

Number four Stan Wawrinka and number two Murray, who have three Grand Slam titles between them, are the other two players now ahead of Berdych in the world rankings.

Retired former world number one Carlos Moya and former world number two Goran Ivanisevic however said that on current form it would be difficult to bet against the world’s top four at the Australian Open.

“There are a few guys that I believe will step up next year,” Moya added, naming younger players like Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov.

However Ivanisevic said it would take the young guns “another five years or six years” to break through.

“I don’t see any surprises” for 2016, the Croat added.