Resurgent Berdych sending seeds packing

  • Dan Imhoff

Tomas Berdych can no longer go quietly about pummelling seeds with the Czech on Friday powering through to a fourth-round Australian Open showdown with either Rafael Nadal or Alex De Minaur.

A serious back injury in 2018 forced the 33-year-old to contemplate retirement but rejuvenated after his time away from the sport, he added No.18 seed Diego Schwartzman to his list of victims at Melbourne Park in 2019.

His 5-7 6-3 7-5 6-4 triumph under a closed roof on Melbourne Arena followed earlier wins over Robin Haase and 13th seed Kyle Edmund.

Be it No.2 seed Nadal or rising home hope, 27th seed Alex De Minaur, Berdych knew all eyes would be on his 11th Australian Open fourth-round showdown.

Berdych hammered home 19 aces

“I will watch, but not the whole match,” Berdych said. “I also want to have my time, not spending it just on tennis, number one.

“Number two, I don’t really care [who I play]. Let them play, let them enjoy. Both are great players, one making history playing for so long winning so many slams and the upcoming star from Australia. I’m gonna be ready for either of them.”

Schwartzman reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, where he took a set off Nadal before succumbing in four.

MORE: AO2019 men’s singles results

At 170cm, the Argentine was well used to giving up height on his opponents – to Berdych a 26cm margin. But what he lacked in trajectory and firepower, the 26-year-old made up for in court speed.

Berdych knew to expect as much.

“Well I think we can find a couple of advantages on my side and some on his side,” Berdych said of the height disparity. “That’s the beauty of our sport that we can have such different players … Really, I mean, you just have to take your advantages and play your best.”

Berdych did use his height to advantage, hammering 19 aces to eight and finishing with 65 winners to 39.

An unforced error count nearly double the Argentine’s 27 was par for the course with a game plan to take time away from his opponent.

“Another good day at the office, I played a really good match,” Berdych said. “Diego gave me a very good challenge. I was strong, I was ready today.”