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Tomas Berdych picks up his first win since February at the Winston-Salem Open.

Berdych: 'It's Been A Very Tough Time For Me'

Former World No. 4 returns with a win in Winston-Salem

Tomas Berdych's first-round win over Andreas Seppi on Sunday night at the Winston-Salem Open was a positive first step in his return from a back injury that has sidelined him for most of the past 14 months. But the joy on his face after match point didn’t show how much the Czech had been silently suffering during his time away from competition.

“It’s been a very tough time for me. I’ve been really up and down,” admitted Berdych. “Because of the love of the sport, I was giving myself one more try to come back, give myself a good shot to prepare, play some matches here and the US Open and see what happens… It was probably not the nicest win, but it [only] counts that you win.”

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The 33-year-old missed the last five months of the 2018 season due to his back injury before returning in January. After six ATP Tour events to start the year, the injury flared up again in March. His only tournament since the BNP Paribas Open was Wimbledon, which he admitted only playing “just for the reason that it’s Wimbledon. I was not fit and not at the level that I wanted to be.”

But Berdych is now fit again. When he’s healthy, the Czech is still capable of great tennis. In his first three tournaments of this season, the former World No. 4 finished runner-up in Doha (l. to Bautista Agut), reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and advanced to the semi-finals in Montpellier. Berdych admitted those early highlights are largely what fueled his latest comeback.

“If I had prepared like I did before this season, not had good results and then had the injuries come a couple of months later, I probably would be thinking very differently. I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now,” he said. “I know I can still play some good tennis when I’m fit and healthy.”

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After a 17-year career that has seen him win 13 ATP Tour titles, finish runner-up at 2010 Wimbledon and clear more than $29 million in prize money, Berdych has nothing left to prove. He's looking to finish the final chapter of his career on his terms and embracing what might be his biggest challenge yet.

“If this was happening early in my career, it would be very frustrating. It’s easier to deal with when you have all the experience,” said Berdych. “I’m just enjoying new situations that I’ve never had my career, trying to find a way through it and take it as a new challenge.”

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