Top seed Stan Wawrinka isn’t the only one to play his first match since the Australian Open, as No. 2 seed Tomas Berdych also returns to competition in Marseille this week. The Czech will open his campaign at the Open 13 Provence against German youngster Alexander Zverev on Thursday and sat down with the press in advance to his opening match.
Tomas Berdych looked relaxed and in a fairly good mood when he took to the podium on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike in the previous couple of years, the World No. 6 had a slightly longer break after the Australian Open as he made a conscious decision not to enter any tournaments between Melbourne and Marseille.
“I’m getting a bit older and I think it’s even more important to take care of my schedule and choosing the weeks a little bit more carefully,” Berdych explained. “It means the time of the preparation before the season — I don’t want to say it wasn’t enough but I would prefer a little bit more — so that time I kind of just took a preparation for the Australian Open and now I choose to have that two weeks after to get some more training, some more preparation for another stretch in the season. So that’s why I choose just to play here and in Dubai after.”
After Dubai, the 30-year-old has committed to playing Davis Cup in Germany in March — his first tie since the World Group semifinals in 2014. In his first match in Marseille, the Czech No. 1 will face one of the possible members of the German team in 18-year-old Alexander Zverev.
“I mean, we already played at the end of last year in Stockholm against each other and he’s a very talented young kid coming up, one of the rising stars,” Berdych said. “You know, these young guys are improving so much in such a short time and doing well. It’s gonna be interesting, not an easy first round match but I’m just ready for the challenge.
“Is it something to do with the Davis Cup? I don’t think so because Davis Cup is such a different thing. I mean, it’s still a singles match but the atmosphere around it always makes a difference. I think I played quite enough of that and I’m quite experienced in that sense. I’m just taking it match by match and that’s what it is.”
By making himself available to play in the Davis Cup tie early next month, Berdych will also have cleared his Olympics eligibility. The Top 10 stalwart is obviously in line to play singles for his country, but is also looking towards his prospects for doubles and mixed.
“Right now, if everything goes well and everything is fine, I’m aiming for all three this time – so let’s see,” he said. “Maybe it’s too optimistic, maybe not — why not? It’s once in the four years, just to give it a try, so let’s see what happens.”
“I think the doubles is quite simple, I mean it’s gonna be with Radek [Stepanek], we just played quite enough and I think that would be the right partner for me to have a successful run and with the women’s it’s difficult to call. Probably my preference would be [Karolina] Pliskova. I mean, she is experienced in the doubles, playing great singles, serving big — but honestly, it’s still a while to go.”
Back to the present in Marseille, Berdych is looking forward to the relatively fast indoor courts at the Open 13 Provence — conditions he grew up on and that have yielded success for him in the past.
“Speaking to the other guys, it looks pretty much the same: quick — that’s how it used to be, that’s what I remember from here, that’s good. I like these conditions, so I’m looking forward to that. My beginnings were on really quick courts and once you get on tour — I remember the first few years when we used to play on really fast indoor courts which were good for me. I can mention for example the Bercy, the title there which was really good. And then we got to the point when the courts get pretty much on the same level [of speed] and everything was pretty much even and I understand, it’s absolutely fine.
“So you know, when you get opportunity like this playing on a bit faster court, indoors, I really enjoy that.”
When asked whether the comfortable court speed is one of the reasons he keeps returning to Marseille, the Czech joked that it’s always more likely that he’ll end up in the French city than in South America.
Zverev, on the other hand, has played the entire European indoor swing this month. After making the semifinals in Montpellier and the quarterfinals in Rotterdam, the German is playing his third straight week and is rather understandably not quite as rested as the No. 2 seed of the tournament.
“I’m not feeling as well as I did in the first week but I’m still hanging in there I still play quite well, I think,” Zverev said. “Next match against Tomas will be one of the toughest ones of these three weeks and we’ll see how I am but y’know, from my game point of view, I think I’m ready for him but it will probably be just physically how I feel on that day.”
Thomas Berdych and Alexander Zverev will take court not before 8:30 pm local time tomorrow, following No. 3 seed Richard Gasquet’s match vs. Ernests Gulbis.