AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships
Berdych Downs Del Potro To Win Tokyo Title
by ATP Staff|
Czech No. 9 seed Tomas Berdych (pictured) dismissed Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo on Sunday to capture his fourth ATP title and first on hard court.
Having started the week at No. 29 in the ATP 2008 Race, Berdych has an outside chance of qualifying for Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai for the first time; he is 133 points behind No. 8 James Blake.
Del Potro, meanwhile, will rise to No. 9 both in the Race and the South African Airways ATP Rankings – a new career-high – on the strength of his performance in Tokyo. He is the second Argentine to rank inside the elite Top 10, behind No. 7 David Nalbandian.
"I'm feeling very good because everything is good for me now," said del Potro, despite his defeat. "The results are coming and everything is coming together. I have the chance to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup, I need one or two more results and I'm working to earn this. I hope to continue this good form and qualify for Shanghai."
Berdych, who is currently ranked No. 27, is a former Top 10 player, peaking at No. 9 on August 20, 2007.
In a dominant display by the top Czech player, Berdych fired 11 aces, converted three of eight break points and defended all three against him in the 1 hr., 17 min., encounter.
"If someone had told me before the match (how I would control the play from the start) I wouldn't have believed it because I saw Juan Martin playing his earlier matches and he was in really good shape, playing well," confessed Berdych. "Today I think he had a little bit of bad luck and I think he didn't feel well on the court from the beginning. But I think in the second set was getting pretty close and I'm very happy that I finished it the way I did."
"It was very tough for me," admitted del Potro. "He played unbelievably today, I didn't have chance to do anything. I didn't feel well during the match but I think it was more to do with how well he played. But I had a great tournament anyway, so I'm sad because I lost today but I have to be happy for the week."
In the semifinals, Berdych came back from the brink of defeat against No. 2 seed Andy Roddick, who led 5-2 in the third set and served for the match at 5-3 before Berdych fought back to claim victory. Other seeded players to fall victim to the right-hander this week are No. 9 Tommy Robredo and No. 3 Fernando Gonzalez.
The 23-year-old Berdych, who has now won 13 of his past 16 matches against Argentine opponents, was contesting his second ATP final of the season after finishing runner-up to Tommy Robredo in Bastad in July. The title is his first since 2007 Halle (d. Baghdatis) and his fourth overall as he takes his lifetime record in ATP finals to 4-4. His only previous hard court final came at 2006 Mumbai, when he lost out to Dmitry Tursunov.
The Monte-Carlo resident has now compiled a 32-19 season match record (22-11 on hard court), which includes reaching the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami (l. to Nadal) and last week in Bangkok (l. to Djokovic).
Reflecting on his success in Asia the past two weeks, Berdych said: "I was really looking forward to these two tournaments (Bangkok & Tokyo) because last year I made two semifinals here and in Bangkok. So it's really nice to play here, everything is going well, I like these two places and I hope I'm going to be here next year because I like the place very much."
The 20-year-old del Potro was bidding to become the first player to win his first five ATP finals in his career since Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, who won his five from 1995-97, '99 and 2000. Del Potro now has a 4-1 record in ATP singles finals and is second among ATP title leaders this year – behind only ATP World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who has won eight titles from 10 finals.
The Tandil resident captured his maiden ATP title at Stuttgart (d. Gasquet), then followed it with consecutive wins in Kitzbuhel (d. Melzer), Los Angeles (d. Roddick) and Washington (d. Troicki) before reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open (l. to Murray). The Tokyo defeat is just his second loss in his past 31 matches. He drops to a 38-10 record on the season.