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Can Berdych break through?

Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed from the Czech Republic, in action on Day 7.
By Sandra Harwitt
Thursday, September 4, 2014

It seems like Tomas Berdych keeps running into Marin Cilic at important places this year.

Today, the No. 6 seeded Berdych squares off against Cilic in the US Open quarterfinal, marking the third time this season the two have met. Berdych won his ninth career title with a straight-set final victory over Cilc in the Rotterdam final, but the Croat turned the tables on Berdych with a straight-set, third round win at Wimbledon, the only previous time they’ve played in a Grand Slam match.

In all, the two have faced each other on eight occasions dating back to 2009 with Berdych currently holding a 5-3 lead.

“It’s gonna be nice, I would say, this rematch,” Berdych said. “I’m hitting the ball nice and clean. That’s what I need. That’s what’s good for my game.”

Berdych, the best player currently playing under the Czech Republic flag, secured his quarterfinal berth with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over newbie Dominic Thiem of Austria on Lousi Armstrong Stadium.

On his Twitter page, Berdych paid tribute to the stadium after his win: “I heard the voice at Satchmo Stadium today. Gently whispering, "And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

Indeed for Berdych, the world of tennis has been wonderful. That said, it is surprising to some that, considering his long standing at the top of the game, he hasn’t quite gained the star status he might.

For starters, the 28-year-old looks like he’s just jumped off of the pages of GQ, which never hurts.  As for his game, it’s considered pure beauty to behold. Somehow he’s managed to successfully combine power, pace and accuracy into his effortlessly fluid strokes. His serve is a distinct weapon, as is his flat forehand that frequently pummels opponents.

Yet his name often comes up in a backhanded complimentary way when members of the media and fans in the know discuss this sport. It is Berdych’s name that comes up frequently in the discussion of best active player on the ATP tour yet to win a Grand Slam singles trophy.

It’s worth noting that the constant Top 10 presence — the Czech has finished every season since 2010 in the Top 10 — has come mighty close to carving his name in a Grand Slam trophy. In 2010, he reached his lone Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, beating Roger Federer in the quarters, and Novak Djokovic in the semis, before falling to Rafael Nadal in the final.

This year, Berdych reached the Australian Open semifinal, losing to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka. That achievement provides Berdych with the distinction of having been to at least the semifinals at all four Grand Slams.

As close as he’s getting — and as close as he’s been in the past to a Grand Slam title — Berdych is smart enough not to put any lofty expectations on how this US Open will wrap up for him. He knows all too well that appearing in a quarterfinal is still far away from hugging the trophy.

“Unless you made the last point to win the tournament, then you can’t say, ‘Yes I made it,’ Berdych said. “You have to make all those steps. You can’t jump from one to another.

“But I’m feeling good; I’m feeling the way I want to. So all the things are going well, which is good. I need to go really one by one…. And Marin is next.”