By John Delong
A back injury has shelved Tomas Berdych for much of the 2019 ATP World Tour season, but the 33-year-old Czech has been able to take it all in stride.
Berdych finally got rewarded for his perseverance on Sunday night in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open, as he beat Andreas Seppi 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 on Stadium Court in the night’s feature match.
It was Berdych’s first ATP World Tour-level win since back in February in Dubai. He hadn’t played since Wimbledon, and had missed four months prior to Wimbledon so he was playing just his second match in five months. His ranking had fallen all the way to No. 103 because of the inactivity.
“It’s been a very tough time for me,” Berdych said. “I’ve been really up and down. Just because of the love of the sport I was wanting to give myself one more try to come back and give it a good shot of preparation, come here and play some matches and go to the Open and see what it’s like, what I’m going to do, how my tennis is going to be. So it’s ‘Let’s see, let’s go step by step.’”
Berdych, who was the runner-up to John Isner in the 2012 WSO, said that he would not have been able to cope with the injury early in his career.
“It feels great, really,” he said. “The last time I won was way, way, way ago. So I was not really used to that. That’s part of what I’m going through. If I was earlier in my career this would be very, very frustrating. Even now it’s frustrating, but it’s easier to deal with when you have experience. I’m just basically enjoying situations that I’ve never been in before and just trying to find a way through it. I’m taking it as a new challenge.”
Berdych, one of four wild cards in the field, was dominant early, racing to a 5-0 lead in the first set. But Seppi dominated the second set and had all the momentum going into the third. Berdych broke at 3-2 for a 4-2 lead, and it was a matter of holding serve twice more from there.
Berdych acknowledged there was some rust on his game.
“It was a tough match,” he said. “I played well early, but I know it’s not going to be like that the whole match. When you haven’t played in a long time it’s not easy. I was just trying to play point by point. When you haven’t played in a long time you have to battle for every single point. Which I did today. So it’s probably not the nicest win, but they don’t count if it’s the nicest or not. It just matters that you win.”
Berdych will move on to take on eighth-seeded Filip Krajinovic in the second round.
“I know when I’m fit and healthy I can still play good tennis,” Berdych said. “I was not able to do that before Wimbledon, but I’m happy to be back. I’m happy doing something I’ve been doing my whole career. So it was great to be back on the court and winning.”
In other Main Draw singles action, Robin Haase beat Denis Kudla 6-4, 7-6; Lloyd Harris beat Jaume Munar 7-6, 4-6, 6-1; Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3, 6-4; and Marius Copil beat Martin Klizan 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
In Main Draw doubles action, Tennys Sandgren and Nicholas Monroe beat Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan 6-3, 6-3; and Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach beat Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-4, 6-4.
In the second round of qualifying, Marcos Giron beat Wake Forest’s Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-4; Bjorn Fratangelo beat Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos 7-5, 4-6, 6-1; Damir Dzumhur beat Strong Kirchheimer 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; and Raymond Sarmiento beat Daniel Nguyen 6-2, 6-3.