On paper, a match-up between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych should be a tough one to predict yet leading up to this match, it appears Berdych may have the upper hand against the Frenchman.
After peaking at No5 in the rankings last summer, Tsonga has slipped to No8, retiring from his first round in Valencia with an injury and disappointing against David Ferrer in the quarters in Paris, where he lost to the Spaniard in straight sets.
The entertaining Frenchman may have made the final last year in London, before losing to Roger Federer, but this time around, Tsonga is in the group of death alongside Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Berdych, who owns a 3-1 record against him. Not to mention this is Tsonga’s sixth tournament in six weeks – a packed schedule seems to be hurting him.
So while Tsonga comes to London with several question marks around his fitness and form, Berdych seems to be hitting the ball cleanly, has won the title in Stockholm (over Tsonga) two weeks ago, and is enjoying a career-high No6 ranking.
“I liked Tomas Berdych’s style yesterday,” six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker told me on Tuesday. “I wasn’t really happy with Tsonga. I don’t like the way he’s been playing the last couple of weeks. He played better last year, and Djokovic did enough to win, but he didn’t play great. I think Berdych is a step up at the moment. For me Berdych is the favourite in that match.”
The one thing Tsonga has going for him, is that he beat Berdych at this very arena last year in the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals. How much will that have an effect on both of them is not exactly clear but it could help Tsonga play with more confidence.
Meanwhile Berdych could be distracted by the fact that he has the Davis Cup final against Spain in Prague next week but surely the Czech has been around long enough on Tour that he can focus on the task at hand.
“The next match will be really important for me. If I want to stay in the competition, I have to win it. I will give everything to do that,” warns Tsonga.