You heard it here first - well, maybe not, but still...
After a few months flying under the radar and with his bete noire Nadal - who once won 20 consecutive sets off him and beat him every time since 2006 in pretty easy fashion - out of the picture, Berdych will come back with a vengeance and take the Olympic gold medal in singles.
He'll be #6 seed, which means that he will have to face, on paper, three of the top 4 seeds from QF on. Here they are:
- well, he used to own Berdych back when he was in his prime and Tomas still not in his, but things are very different now. Ever since 2010, this is an extremely even matchup, with Federer struggling greatly with Berdych's easy power and amazing return of serve. The H2H is 3-3 in their last six matches, with Berdych coming agonizingly close to win in two of those three losses. In their last grasscourt meeting, Berdych beat Federer in 4 at Wimbledon, in a match where he killed Federer's serve, especially the second serve, in a way I only remember seeing Nalbandian doing back in the day. Fed is obviously a super tough rival but one that Berdych has a good chance of beating especially over three sets on grass. Also keep in mind Berdych announced his arrival on tour by beating prime Federer in the Athens Olympics in 2004.
- H2H is 4-2 in favor of Berdych, who won their only Slam match as well. This is a very favorable match for Berdych, if he's 'on' it's his match to lose against Murray. He takes advantage of Murray's blocked returns like very few other players on tour.
- Tomas will probably blow him to smithereens should they face on a fast grasscourt.
- this will be the toughest matchup for Tomas. The H2H is 9-1 for Novak, and for good reason. Tomas has a history of choking against this particular opponent: each of them actually won the first set 5 times in their 10 meetings, but Novak always ends up prevailing. You can usually rely on Tomas to fold in crucial moments against Novak; interestingly, though, his only win came at this very venue in Wimbledon 2010, which certainly gives his fans some hope should this matchup occur.
As I see it, he'd be favorite against two of the top 4 seeds (overwhelming favorite vs Ferrer, maybe 50-50 vs Murray), have very good chances against one of them (Federer would be favorite but Tomas has shown that he can take him) and a clear underdog against Nole, who he nonetheless has beaten at the same venue. The best of 3 format should also help him; the top guys are more vulnerable in that format and he has less time to choke as well. Of course the final is over 5 sets, but getting there is the first step.
After being upset by a superb Gulbis at Wimbledon, he has had lots of time to practice on grass and plot his comeback at the Olympics. With his serve and groundstrokes firing on all cylinders, there's no reason why Tomas shouldn't aim for the gold, especially with his nemesis Nadal out of the picture. I believe he can do it. It is also worth nothing that the grass is new and since it'll be a one week tournament it will not be worn out by the time the late rounds are played, which greatly favors Tomas when facing the top 4 seeds.
This thread is dedicated to my great friend and #1 Berdych fan, Jason