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The grand finale of the Dolgopolov-Berdych Toronto match

We’re picking up the Berdych-Dolgopolov Jr. match here at 2-3 in the third set on grandstand. #7 seed Berdych took the first set 6-3 but the #49 ranked Ukrainian won the second set tiebreak.

Dolgopolov Jr. is up 40-0, serves wide and Berdych can’t handle it with his backhand. It’s now 3-3. Dolgopolov looks right at home in this pressure-cooker situation, the third round of a Master Series, as he casually bops the ball in his pocket back to the other side of the court in a kind of slow motion gesture. Dolgopolov is conveying a message of extreme confidence here to the dangerous Wimbledon finalist.

Berdych connects on a first serve but watches a two-handed backhand winner zip down the line. The next point Berdych watches a forehand winner hit inside the corner. Suddenly it’s 0-30. Berdych doesn’t like the call but can’t get a replay on this court. But two Dolgopolov misses in a row make it 30-all. The Czech veteran than proceeds to serve two straight aces to go up 4-3. A wasted opportunity by the up & comer. “Really impressive stuff from Berdych,” says the television commentator who adds that Berdych has made 20 unforced errors compared to 40 from Dolgopolov.

A pummeled forehand by Dolgopolov is netted by Berdych. 15-0. Dolgopolov has to move foreward to handle a short backhand which he hits crosscourt but long. 15-all. Dolgopolov continues to thrash the ball, actually putting Berdych on the side-to-side chase, until the Czech nets another backhand. Next point a scrambling Berdych misses a running forehand. 40-15. Dolgopolov then lashes a backhand winner on the first ball to level it 4-4. “He really seems to have won the crowd, ” say the TV commenator of the pony-tailed Ukrainian who is dressed in a purple and white shirt with black shorts, black socks and black/white adidas Barricade VIs.

Berdych in white Nike with a red polo and white cap, is serving at 4-4. The first point is a long baseline rally which ends when Dolgopolov misses a crosscourt backhand just wide by an inch. He drops his racquet after this costly miss. He misses the next return long. Down 0-30 Dolgopolov punishes a forehand return deep which Berdych’s backhand puts into the net. Berdych hops at the line before he serves at 30-15. Huge point. Dolgopolov brings Berdych to the net, forces him to make one volley and then his crosscourt backhand pass again misses by a fraction. “It’s amazing how much pace he can get on the ball,” praises the TV commenator of Dolgopolov’s misfire. The next point his return goes long. 5-4 for Berdych.

“We are gearing up for a very exciting finale here on grandstand,” says the TV commentator.

First point, Dolgopolov’s forehand produces an unforced error. Next point he tries and serve & volley and makes a nice backhand volley with spin but Berdych tracks it down and curls in a forehand pass down the line. Berdych smells blood and attacks off the return on the next point. He makes the volley and Dolgopolov’s backhand hits the net. 0-40, match point for the Czech. “Dolgopolov has been infallible on his serve up to this point.” But he double faults to end the match.

Berdych comes to the net with fire in his eye, points to his temple – as if saying he outsmarted his young rival – then raises a mighty fist for all to see. Dolgopolov strides to the net in exactly the same, confident, smooth gait that he always walks in. He shakes his conqueror’s hand with his head leaning away in the other direction though. It seems he has already shaken off this defeat.

Seconds later Dolgopolov struts off the court with his equipment with the same confident strides, sharing a smile and wave for the crowd. This young top 50 player will be heard from again many more times in the future.

You can be sure of that.

1 comment

  • Dan Markowitz · August 14, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Scoop, Good analysis and depiction of the Dolgo match. He is a fluid player, but is he big enough. Look at the Big 4 now, they’re all 6-1 to 6-3. Then you have Berdych, Soderling, Del Potro. You don’t see any smaller players except Davydenko last year, making it big these days. Dolgo is 6 ft tall, maybe not big enough. Well, now that I look it up, Nalbandian is only 5-11.

    Dolgo, if he reaches the Top 10, a tall order, would be another player who scaled the heights after not setting the tennis world on fire as a young player. At 18, he was still losing first round in Challengers, and at 19, he actually regressed back to Futures.

    I see Ryan Harrison lost to Jesse Witten in the second round of the Challenger in Binghamton, NY this week. Not a good sign. Harrison is not showing signs of greatness. Dolgo’s example notwithstanding, I think if you can’t dominate the lower-levels of the game at 18, there’s very little chance that you’re going to be a great player. The learning curve becomes too steep.



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