Fifth seed Tomas Berdych gets his Cincinnati campaign under way on Tuesday against Thomaz Bellucci. With the withdraw of fourth seeded Kei Nishikori, Berdych finds himself the seeded favorite to make the semifinals out of the second quarter.
(5) Tomas Berdych vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Berdych is hoping to get in some good prep work for the U.S. Open this week after he was ousted early last week in Montreal by Donald Young. Berdych got in some match play in doubles on Monday with Mardy Fish. The duo lost in two tight sets to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram. Berdych suddenly finds himself with one less seed to get through in this quarter of the draw after Kei Nishikori pulled out of the tournament with a hip injury and fatigue. That should suit the Czech just fine as he lost his first match last year at this tournament to Yen-Hsun Lu. It could be good karma for Berdych that this is an odd numbered year as he has made his deepest runs at the Western & Southern Open in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Two of those three years, he made the semifinals. Hard courts have been good to Berdych this season with a semifinal at the Australian Open to start the year. That was followed by a quarterfinal showing at Indian Wells and a semifinal trip in Miami. This will be a week where Berdych really needs to get himself on track.
Bellucci has a match under his belt already this week as he outlasted another Czech, Jiri Vesely, in the opening round on Monday 7-6, 6-2. Bellucci was decent, but not overpowering on serve as he won 64 percent of the points. He saved five of six break points against Vesely. He was able to convert three breaks on ten chances. He has shown well enough this summer on hard courts with a win in Montreal over Pablo Cuevas, a tight two set loss to Djokovic followed and he started the swing with a tough three set loss to Sam Groth in Washington, D.C. He may only be winning about 50 percent of his outdoor hard court matches in his careeer, but he usually competes well on the surface even against the biggest names. Last year at the U.S. Open, he won a set off Stan Wawrinka and took him to a tie break in another before losing in four sets.
Berdych owns a 3-2 head-to-head advantage, but their last meeting came in 2011 on clay in Madrid where Bellucci won in straight sets 7-6, 6-3. Berdych has won both hard court meetings and two other clashes came at the Challenger level six and seven years ago respectively. Berdych normally does well against lefties with a 4-2 record this year and a 74-41 mark lifetime at this level against southpaws. His last two meetings with lefties have been losses. The shock loss to Donald Young last week in Montreal and back in May in Madrid to Rafael Nadal on clay. Berdych can ill afford a loss here that would leave him very low on confidence with the U.S. Open approaching. He could get the ball rolling this week with a win, but he’ll need to be on point against Bellucci. Bellucci’s crafty lefty game can trouble the best when it is working. Berdych’s serve was not at its best against Young last week at the Rogers Cup as he won just 64 percent of the first serve points. That is well below his season average of 78 percent. He will need to be much closer to that number if he wants to avoid being another seeded casualty in Cincinnati. That will be one of the key stats to monitor in this one.
Bellucci’s chances in this one likely come down to how well he saves break points. He’s right around 61 percent in that category for the season. His serve breaks down more than Berdych’s, so there will be chances for the Czech to cash in. If Bellucci is saving a high percentage of those break chances, then this one could be very tricky and tight. Given Berdych’s form last week and lack of match play since Wimbledon, I would expect that this will indeed be a close encounter.
Berdych wins in three sets