In a clash of the big-hitters, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic takes on Frenchman Jeremy Chardy for a place in the second round. Berdych, having fallen out of the top ten, is now surely approaching the end of what has been a fine career, but could have one Indian summer yet. Chardy too may feel that the best years of his career have now past, but he has shown this season that he can still play some fine tennis. Who will come out on top?
Berdych and Chardy have met five times so far in their careers and it is not a match up that has favoured the Frenchman. Their first match was contested in 2009 at the Bavarian International in the semifinals. Despite a mid-match wobble, it proved to be a fairly comfortable win for Berdych, who reached the final a 6-1 5-7 6-2 winner, going on to defeat Mikhail Youzhny in the final. He then defeated Chardy in 2012 in the first round in Dubai, 6-2 6-3.
Berdych won their third match, again in the first round in Dubai, three years later, in straight sets 7-6 6-4. They met again later that year at Wimbledon in the first round with Berdych taking an extremely hard-fought three setter 6-2 6-7 7-6 7-6. In their most recent meeting, which was at Wimbledon last year, the Czech scored a fifth straight victory 6-3 3-6 7-6 6-4 to again knock Chardy out of the first round in SW19.
Last time out
What has proved to be a disappointing season for Berdych has continued since the start of the European clay court season. The former Wimbledon finalist started his clay campaign in Monte Carlo where he reached the final in 2015 (lost to Djokovic) but was beaten by Kei Nishikori in the first round, despite winning the first set. Richard Gasquet then brushed him aside in Madrid for the loss of just six games. He then threw away another lead, this time against Denis Shapovalov in Rome, losing 6-1 3-6 6-7 in the first round.
Chardy had a profitable Sunshine Double, reaching the fourth round in both Indian Wells and Miami. He then came through the qualifiers to reach the main draw at the Monte Carlo Masters, although he was beaten 6-4 7-6 by Gasquet in the first round proper. He then made a run to the Istanbul semifinals, his first at Tour-level this season. However, he will be disappointed after two early losses in the Challengers in Aix-en-Provence and Bordeaux, winning just one match across the two events.
How do they match up?
Berdych was surely amongst the most naturally gifted players of his generation. Standing 6’5” tall, the Czech has always had plenty of easy power, particularly off his forehand which can be devastating at times. He has worked to improve his backhand over the course of his career, turning what was always a solid shot into a formidable weapon in its own right. His Achilles’s heel has always been his serve. He tends to miss too many first serves and his second can be vulnerable to aggressive returners.
Chardy can certainly count himself amongst the Tour’s most powerful players, particularly off his forehand with which he clubs the ball just about as hard as anyone else in the game. However, his backhand is a serious weakness. The Frenchman doesn’t look hugely comfortable either coming over the ball or slicing it, and it can often break down. His ball toss is also often errant and Chardy usually finds himself amongst the leaders in double faults on Tour.
Whilst Tomas Berdych is yet to win a match on clay this season, this is a match up he has enjoyed in the past and it may be just what he needs to get his season moving in the right direction. Chardy’s lopsided game may also help Berdych, as he should be able to exploit Chardy’s weak backhand with his own stronger two-hander. Of course, this will be far from a walkover, particularly with the Philippe Chatrier crowd sure to be behind Chardy, but Berdych should have enough to win through in four.