When you’re more than a decade and a half into your professional tennis career, the ‘R’ word starts to get tossed around a bit, both in hushed tones around the locker room and in pointed questions in the press room. That’s been the case for Tomas Berdych, who after 13 singles titles, a run of seven straight Top-10 finishes, and a trip to the 2010 Wimbledon final is at a stage when the idea of retirement is perhaps beginning to come into focus. But the Czech, now 32, says he’s not quite ready to walk away.
“That’s the beauty of our sport — no matter where you are, you still have a big chance,” said the No. 15-ranked Berdych earlier this year. “It’s about that particular day, and from that one day you can create a great week. From one great week, you can make it two. To be honest, that’s the only reason why I’m still around. I don’t have to be playing anymore. It’s because I love the sport. I see what I have achieved in the past. I still have a chance for that. That’s why I still want to compete. I want to challenge myself against the young guys.”
Berdych certainly rose to the challenge on Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, rolling past 22-year-old German Maximilian Marterer, 6-1, 6-4, in just one hour, 11 minutes.
Battling lower back issues, Berdych estimates that he played to the best of his abilities for only a month in 2017, a year that saw the 6-foot-5 baseliner finish outside the Top 10 for the first time since 2009. But he was in good form in Stadium 2, where he converted two of five break-point chances in the 26-minute opening set.
Marterer, who was coming off his first-ever ATP World Tour Masters 1000 victory, during which he saved a match point against Ivo Karlovic to win 6-7(13), 7-6(4), 6-3, found some traction early in the second set, surging to a 3-0 lead. However, Berdych would reel off six of the of the next seven games to seal the match, his 22nd career win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. He now awaits the winner of the second-round matchup between No. 23-seeded #NextGen star Hyeon Chung of South Korea and Serb Dusan Lajovic.
Berdych is making his 14th straight appearance in the desert, his best results a semifinal showing in 2013 (l. To Rafael Nadal).
Elsewhere on Saturday, No-5 seed Dominic Thiem was tested by Stefanos Tsitsipas in Stadium 1, where the Austrian needed three sets to overcome the free-swinging Greek teen, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Tsitsipas, ranked a career-high No. 71 this week, was seeking his second career Top-10 win after beating David Goffin last October in Antwerp.
Thiem totaled 10 aces and won 82 percent (31 of 38) of his first-serve points in securing his ATP-leading 17th victory of the year. He improved to 2-0 against Tsitsipas, having topped the 17-year-old 7-5, 6-4 in the Doha quarterfinals in the opening week of the 2018 season.
Thiem’s next opponent is No. 30 seed Pablo Cuevas, who dismissed #NextGen star Denis Shapovalov, 7-6(4), 6-3. A quarterfinalist here last year, the 32-year-old Uruguayan saved four of the five break points he faced in the one-hour, 40-minute win.