© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Tomas Berdych is beginning his season outside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 2004.

Berdych Excited For Comeback Challenge In 2019

Czech looking to bounce back from back injury

Tomas Berdych first broke into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings on 4 October 2004, just after his 19th birthday. To put that into context, #NextGenATP sensation Denis Shapovalov was just five years old at the time. The Czech star Berdych first finished inside the Top 20 of the year-end ATP Rankings in 2006, and he’d stay inside that elite group for 12 consecutive years.

But after a 9-3 start to the 2018 season, Berdych’s year began to crumble. Back pain hindered his performance, leading to losses in eight of his next 10 matches. And after losing to Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the first round of the Fever-Tree Championships, enough was enough.

“[The pain had] started quite a while ago and at the Queen’s tournament, I just said, ‘No’,” Berdych remembered. “I cannot go on anymore.”

That would be the end of the 13-time ATP Tour titlist’s season. The 33-year-old dropped as low as No. 77 in the ATP Rankings, a number he hadn’t seen since he was 18 years old. But Berdych knew that he had no choice but to take time away from the court.

“My body said now I need rest and now I need to take care of it,” Berdych said. “I did all the tests, I did all the medical things that I had to do. I was very lucky that I didn’t have to do any surgeries, which was very good for me.”

By the middle of October, Berdych was able to resume training on the court. But despite having been on the ATP Tour for so long, this was a new experience for him. The Czech had dealt with small injuries over the years, but nothing that kept him out for an extended period of time.

“I remember my first steps on the court, starting to serve when the shoulder and everything was quite stiff. My serve was like throwing the ball by hand, it was very slow,” Berdych remembered. “In two weeks I could serve properly and I was like, ‘Wow, what a difference’.

“Since then I’m feeling good, I can load up, and everything is going well. So I’m very happy for that.”

Now, it’s about Berdych finding a rhythm and building up his ATP Ranking again. Currently World No. 71, he may fall even further after the Australian Open, where he is defending 350 points from making the quarter-finals last year. If Berdych loses in the first round, he will fall outside of the Top 100.

This is uncharted territory, and Berdych knows that. But he also knows that he has the level in him. At the 2018 Australian Open, the Czech beat Juan Martin del Potro and Fabio Fognini, both of whom went on to complete the best season of their careers.

Berdych has won 627 tour-level matches, more than former World No. 1s Thomas Muster, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick, among others. So it’s not a question of whether or not the Czech is capable of boosting his level. But it’s just a matter of working step by step, staying healthy, and making a push back to form.

“I’m seeing it as a big challenge ahead of me. In my career, I’ve never experienced it,” Berdych said of having to rebuild after injury. “So after 15, 16 seasons, I’m really looking forward to something new and some new situations, so exciting times coming up.”

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