Berdych beats Sousa to reach 3rd round at Paris Masters

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

To­mas Berdych avoided an­other early exit by beat­ing Joao Sousa 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 yes­ter­day to reach the third round of the Paris Masters.

At 4-4 in the de­cid­ing set, Berdych trailed 15-40 and saved two break points.

Al­though Berdych won the Shen­zhen Open in China last month, the Czech player's form dropped sharply with first-round ex­its at the Ja­pan Open and the Erste Bank Open in Vi­enna. In be­tween, there was a se­cond-round loss at the Shang­hai Masters.

Los­ing so many rank­ing points forced Berdych out of the top 10 for the first time since reach­ing the 2010 Wim­ble­don fi­nal. It also leaves him need­ing to reach the semi­fi­nals in Paris to have a chance of qual­i­fy­ing for the sea­son-end­ing ATP fi­nals in Lon­don — a dif­fi­cult task con­sid­er­ing he could face Andy Mur­ray in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

"If you don't play your best, you don't re­ally de­serve to be there," Berdych said. "Luck­ily, I'm healthy. Who would have said that I'd be an­swer­ing ques­tions about Lon­don when I was in the hos­pi­tal in Cincin­nati? This is a nice bonus."

Berdych was re­fer­ring to the ap­pen­dici­tis that forced him out of this year's U.S. Open.

Even though his play looked patchy at times against Sousa, at least his serv­ing was strong with 14 aces, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of boom­ing ones on se­cond serve.

Berdych is hope­ful that work­ing with coach Go­ran Ivani­se­vic — the big-serv­ing Croat who won Wim­ble­don in 2001 — will help im­prove his game.

"I like his ap­proach and how he tries to sim­plify things for me," the 31-year-old Berdych said. "Hope­fully I can get to the point where I can start to use his ex­pe­ri­ence in all the big matches he's played."

Berdych, the 2005 Paris Masters cham­pion, will next face ei­ther 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut or Gilles Si­mon.

Seven play­ers are vy­ing for the two re­main­ing spots in Lon­don.

Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic, who won the Swiss In­doors on Sun­day, held the last two places be­fore this week. David Gof­fin, Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga, Lu­cas Pouille and Bautista Agut are the other con­tenders play­ing in Paris.

John Is­ner had 14 aces as he reached the se­cond round by beat­ing Mis­cha Zverev 7-6 (8), 64. Is­ner saved the only break point he faced in the first set and broke Zverev's serve early in the se­cond.

Is­ner will next play 15th-seeded David Fer­rer, who has beaten the big-serv­ing Amer­i­can seven times in eight meet­ings. Is­ner's only win, how­ever, was in the quar­ter­fi­nals in Paris five years ago.

Also in the first round, Jack Sock beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 7-6 (3); Feli­ciano Lopez de­feated Pierre-Hugues Her­bert 7-6 (3), 6-4; Ni­co­las Mahut beat Martin Kl­izan 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; and Vik­tor Troicki saved two match points be­fore de­feat­ing Adrian Man­nar­ino 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

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