Tomas Berdych is the highest seed left in Stuttgart after a rash of early upsets. The Czech battles Feliciano Lopez for the 13th time with the winner breaking a six-all tie in the head-to-head.
(3) Tomas Berdych vs Feliciano Lopez
Berdych’s 2017 debut at the Mercedes Cup came Thursday against Bernard Tomic. Berdych looked in control throughout, although he did yack up a break lead in the opening set. He recovered with plenty of room to spare for the 7-6 (4), 6-2 win. The match featured some typical Berdych numbers when his game is on as the third seed won 84 percent of his first serve points. He walloped 14 aces and was broken just the one time on three chances.
Lopez battled Jeremy Chardy in round two with the Spaniard prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Lopez also served big with 13 aces, taking 83 percent of his first serve points. The Flodonis fought off three of the four break chances against his serve. Through two matches in Stuttgart, Lopez has been broken three times with Gilles Simon doing the deed twice in their opening round affair. The Spaniard has been a little iffy with double faults in both rounds, racking up four in each match.
First Meeting Since 2014
Although the two grizzled tour vets have met a dozen times, this will mark their first match in two and a half years. Berdych has won the last two in the series, beating the Spaniard in straight sets in 2014 in Beijing and Paris. Lopez had beaten the Czech in their two previous meetings earlier that season with one coming on grass at Queen’s Club. That stands as their only grass court meeting. In that clash, Lopez’s serve was scintillating as he won 90 percent of the points off his first serve, blasting 13 aces. Berdych was solid, winning 78 percent of his first serve points. It came down to one break of serve and a tiebreak. That could again be how close this match-up is between these two on grass.
As touched on with their last meeting, serve on this quick German grass will again be a large factor in determining the winner. Berdych seemed to have a great feel for the grass in his opener against Tomic, serving with power and precision. He also got in 67 percent of his first serves, a fantastic number for anyone. It’s especially impressive for the Czech whose season average in that category is 57 percent. Lopez has won 80 percent or better of his first serve points in both matches. The lone leaky aspect really has been the double faults.
The Spaniard’s lefty serve is very fluid and when he’s in rhythm, he’s tough to break. Berdych is fluid, but in a different manner with is serve. His high ball toss seems to be a big part of the issue when he’s not in rhythm. What is impressive though is when Berdych’s timing is proper and you can literally see the power coming off his serve.
Lopez has the advantage on grass when he plays to what he does best in his game. He serves big and then is very comfortable coming to the net. On grass, that is a superior combination when executed well. It’s part of the season that Lopez has racked up a superb 65-36 record on grass during his career. That includes three trips to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. When he doesn’t come to net, Lopez will play a lot of backhand slice in baseline exchanges in an effort to get back around to his strong forehand.
I’d expect him to utilize that in an effort to get the ball back to Berdych’s backhand. The Czech uses a two hander and it’s solid, but not his most consistent shot. Berdych will also prefer to smash his forehand off the ground as many times as possible. The third seed’s best combos likely will come from serving big and then finishing shorter points with a quick 1-2 punch against the Spaniard. Berdych isn’t going to serve and volley like Lopez, but the Czech is very skilled on grass at utilizing the court position that his serve causes. Against Tomic, he showed this often as his serve put Tomic off balance and Berdych went big on the next shot for a winner of either wing.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
This should be competitive. Both have looked comfortable in the transition to grass. This really should come down to who can dictate their tactics more in this match-up. This could certainly feature a tiebreak or two. Berdych is now 11-4 in tiebreaks this year, while Lopez is 4-5. Berdych has won three of the four career tiebreaks the two have played, but it was Lopez’s lone win in a breaker that came on grass. What does that mean? Flip a coin here, it may be that close.
Prediction: Lopez wins in three sets