There was a time when Tomas Berdych was regarded as, well, shall we say a little less than the life and soul of the party? He was a quiet chap. He was awfully good at tennis, no question about that, but he was not your go-to man for a wild night out, an indiscreet breakdown of the locker room gossip or the best dodgy jokes in town.
When he reached the final here in 2010, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic en route, the world’s media packed the interview room to find out everything they could about the man from the Czech Republic: we wanted to know what made Tomas tick. But much as we tried our very best, Tomas was not ticking.
The most we got from the big man was that his dad worked as a train engineer and that, had Berdych junior not been a tennis player, he, too, would have worked on the railways. It was not that he wanted to realise every little boy’s dream and become a train driver, it was just that he could not think of anything else to do. As one wag put it: Tomas Berdych – the face that launched the 15.28 to Prostejov.
Now, though, all of that has changed. Tomas is now one of the Twitterati and the difference in him is remarkable. How he has time to work on his tennis is anyone’s guess as he is always sharing his thoughts and pictures with the world, in 140 characters or fewer. He only dipped his toe in the murky waters of social media a couple of weeks ago and already he has more than 18,000 followers. Then again, he caters to every taste and language – he was even tweeting in Morse code the other day – and no matter what you ask him, he will give you a straight answer. Well, an answer anyway. No subject is off limits.
Billing himself as the Birdman (a moniker given to him by Brad Gilbert), Tomas has become a veritable – if not virtual – internet comedian. Check out the wit and wisdom of the Birdman @tomasberdych.
On the court, mind you, he is much the same: big, powerful and, when his eye is in, a devil to break down. Daniel Brands certainly could not find a weakness to exploit as he plugged away for one hour and 51 minutes before Berdych stepped over him 7-6, 6-4(6), 6-2. It was not what you would call a pretty match: two men standing 6ft 5in tall and weighing in at the 200lb mark belting the ball for all they were worth. The both serve like cannons and leather their forehands as if their lives depended upon it and, for a set at least, whatever one did, the other copied.
There was a break of serve each, there was a flurry of aces apiece and then, when they headed for the tie-break, there was barely a whisker between them. What finally separated them was the small matter of 51 ranking places (Berdych is the world No.6), eight career titles and more that $13million in prize money. Brands is not a bad Berdych copy but the original is much, much better. Once Berdych had the first set under his belt, he had Brands exactly where he wanted him.
So, the Czech is through to a third round appointment with Kevin Anderson, another encounter that ought to be short on rallies and big on firepower. But as you ponder that match up, consider this: the last time Berdych beat Brands, it was at Wimbledon and the Czech went on to reach the final. And in a tournament of upsets, surprises and dramas, that may just be a portent of what is to come.
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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