Federer, Nadal and Djokovic former rival explains ‘special’ memories of beating Big Three

Australian Open: I'm here to play Nadal says Tomas Berdych

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Former top ten player Tomas Berdych has opened up on the significance of challenging Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic during his career. The Czech spent eight consecutive years in the year-end top 10 rankings and was one of the main challengers of the Big Three dominance during the late 2000s and early 2010s, before retiring in 2019.

Berdych enjoyed a hugely successful career, making the Wimbledon final in 2010, reaching a career-high ranking of world No 4 and winning the 2005 Paris Masters.

The Czech tennis star has often been regarded as someone who would have likely had multiple Grand Slam titles to his name, was he not active during the era of Big Three dominance.

He was still able to beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic throughout his career, becoming the second player ever to defeat Federer multiple times in Grand Slam tournaments before the semi-final stage, and one of three players to defeat all the Big Four players – including Andy Murray – at all four Majors.

The 36-year-old achieved the standout result of his tennis career when he beat then-world No 1 Federer and then-world No 3 Djokovic back-to-back in the Wimbledon quarter-final and semi-final in 2010, making the only Grand Slam final of his career where he lost to Nadal.

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While it has been argued that the former world No 4 would have won more events without the Big Three in his way, Berdych has since admitted he was happy to play during such a “special” era and had no regrets about his career.

“It’s been an incredibly different era in tennis in my time,” he said, speaking exclusively to Express Sport.

“I mean, I competed all of those ten years with the guys that each of them has 20 Slams and make record so it is really special.”

Having previously been labelled one of the best players never to have won a Grand Slam, the 13-time tour title winner also thought that he wouldn’t be as good without Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in their prime during his career – shutting down the idea that he could have won Majors in their absence.

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He continued: “Again, on the other side of the coin, you always have to see both sides, is that without them I wouldn’t be that good because they challenge you, they make you work harder.

“You just had to put really [the] maximum out of yourself just to be competitive with them and that’s it.”

Berdych wrapped up his illustrious career in 2019 during the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

At the end of 2017, the Czech player failed to make the year-end top 10 for the first time since 2009 and, after starting 2018 with an Australian Open quarter-final showing, he shut down his season ahead of Wimbledon with a back injury, ending the year at world No 71.

In his final year on tour, he managed to make the final of his first tournament back at the Qatar ATP 250, the fourth-round of the Australian Open and the semi-final of the Montpellier ATP 250, but fell in the early rounds of his remaining few tournaments before officially announcing his retirement in November during the year-end finals at London’s O2 Arena.

Having watched his three main former rivals go on to win 20 Grand Slam titles each, Berdych said some of the greatest memories of his career came from his matches against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – win or lost.

“I think I had a great career and all the matches, even if I lost them or won, it’s always going to stay in my mind,” he said.

“It’s nice memories, it’s been always like a celebration of tennis I would say, playing them.”

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