After a surprise loss in the opening round of Roland Garros, Tomas Berdych changed his travel plans and headed for London earlier than first planned.
Determined to avoid a similar fate at The Championships, Berdych used the extra time to hone his grass court game and it paid off with the Czech defeating Slovakia’s Martin Klizan in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
In Paris Berdych was unlucky to be drawn to play the unseeded but dangerous Frenchman Gael Monfils, here it was another flashy shotmaker in Klizan who he had to overcome.
A world away from his beloved clay, 23-year-old Klizan looked more than comfortable on the grass at Wimbledon as he kept pace with seventh seed Berdych in the opening set.
The first break didn’t come until the eighth game when a string of unforced errors from Klizan undid his earlier good work. It was all the ice-cool Czech needed as he served out the first set shortly after.
The second set saw Berdych grab an early break and seemingly control of the match. Klizan appeared frustrated – he was simply making too many errors to put pressure on his opponent and he knew it.
But down a set and a break, mid-way through the second set Klizan threw caution to the wind and started to go for everything. Big forehands, withering backhands and a wristy but impeccably weighted drop shot that confounded Berdych but drew a round of “oohs” from the crowd.
Klizan’s adventurous play caught the attention of not only Berdych but also the fans who rallied behind. Capable of ferocious tennis, Klizan is exciting to watch when his game is on.
“He’s a very talented and aggressive player, so I’m happy to make it in three sets,” said a relieved Berdych after the match.
Sadly for the Slovakian, he pushed his luck a little too much. He overplayed the drop shot at times and on the occasions when he didn’t get it just right, Berdych would pummel each errant short ball for a winner.
Berdych meanwhile was doing most things right. He won a remarkable 92 per cent of first serves and offered just three break-point chances to Klizan, none of which he was able to convert, while Berdych grabbed three of his nine break-point opportunities.
Klizan’s 28 winners were just three short of Berdych’s but he cancelled most of those out with 24 unforced errors.
This proved to be the story of the third set as Berdych made the most of his opportunities, breaking Klizan in the fifth game. Despite being behind, Klizan was determined to go down swinging. The Slovakian saved four match points, but on the fifth Berdych got the ‘W’.
“The score didn’t show how close the match was,” conceded Berdych whose next assignment will be either Germany’s Daniel Brands or Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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