Rankings

Pick of the Day: Berdych Faces Zverev Challenge

Perennial top-tenner, Tomas Berdych will look to mark his return to the tour with an appearance in his first final of the season when he takes on German teen, Alexander Zverev in the St. Petersburg semis on Saturday.

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Berdych is playing his first tournament since being diagnosed with appendicitis- an ailment that forced him to miss the Olympics and the US Open.

The big Czech has again been consistent, if not spectacular this season, reaching at least the quarter-finals in each of the three majors he featured in.

It took the might of Roger Federer to stop him in Australia, Novak Djokovic conquered him in Paris, and Andy Murray blew him away at Wimbledon.

Indeed, half of his 14 losses on the tour this year have come against a guy named Federer, Djokovic or Murray.

It’s been an almost everlasting feature of a career that has seen Berdych constantly beat almost everybody else, but falter against the really big boys.

Among his other conquerors in 2016 have been Milos Raonic, David Goffin, Marin Cilic, and Nick Kyrgios (twice).

It is striking to note that Berdych lost back-to-back matches to Kyrgios at the start of the year, an opponent that bears plenty of similarities to today’s adversary, Alexander Zverev.

A lengthy slender big-server that moves very well for his height, Zverev is on a mission to salvage a season that briefly threatened to fall apart.

The highly-rated teenager lost four of his five matches heading into St. Petersburg, but he has addressed that slide with a strong showing in the Russian city.

Berdych and Zverev are no strangers to each other. They have already met four times this year, and while Berdych won all four meetings, his German foe caused him plenty of trouble on each occasion.

This could be the day when young Zverev eventually crosses the finish line ahead of Tomas Berdych.

The other semi-final should be a more straightforward affair, with Stan Wawrinka likely to have too much for the hard-grafting Roberto Bautista Agut.

There are two mouth-watering semi-finals in Metz, with US Open quarter-finalist, Lucas Pouille battling David Goffin, while Dominic Thiem tests out the counter-punching skills of Gilles Simon.

Pouille has done well to follow up his Flushing Meadows heroics with a deep run in St Petersburg, and I’m leaning towards the Frenchman to keep that momentum going on Saturday.

Thiem should have enough firepower to outlast Simon in what could be a long drawn-out contest.

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