A true T.O. spoilsport

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

So, who invited Tomas Berdych to suck the life, if not the looks, out of the Rogers Cup?

"I don't care what the people say or what they want. I'm here to play tennis and play my best tennis," the impressive Berdych said after his 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, upset over the gorgeous -- and I do mean gorgeous -- Rafael Nadal yesterday at the Rexall Centre. "I beat the second player in the world, so for me, it's perfect.

"Maybe for the spectators, not (perfect) but that's their problem."

Perfect for him. Horrible for the tournament. On the finest day of tennis here this week, the worst possible result came late in the afternoon.

Roger Federer remains.

A bunch of guys you couldn't pick out of a police lineups are left to challenge.

Their names are Berdych and Malisse and Acasuso and Gasquet and Nieminen and none of them play for the San Jose Sharks.

Those sounds buzzing around town this morning are trendy Torontonians trying to rid themselves of their weekend tickets. Or, as one fan walking out of the Rexall Centre shouted yesterday: "This is tragic."

This isn't tragic, but it is Rogers Cup typical. Anything that can happen to alter the momentum of this tournament inevitably does.

This year, the unlikely villain happens to be Berdych, who seems to be a genuinely pleasant kid from the Czech Republic, who has yet to turn 21 and actually can serve and volley and play a game that isn't deadly dull. Why we don't know him by name and face is more a tribute to his own inconsistency and immaturity: He has immense talent, is large and powerful and wildly skilled.

But he can't help but get on our nerves.

The guy began the week by eliminating our boy, Daniel Nestor, on Monday afternoon. There are two things we care about here. One is Canadians. The other is big names.

Berdych took care of both.

As inspiring as it may have been to watch the marathon match between Jarkko Niemenen and Davide Sanguinetti -- this went 12-10 in a third-set tiebreaker -- that isn't really what people want.

They wanted Andre Agassi to say goodbye. He didn't show. They wanted Andy Roddick. He pulled out. They wanted a Federer-Nadal final. Won't happen.

Let's assume for now they get Federer. His opponent will be either Berdych (the best choice now) or Niemenen or Richard Gasquet or the Andy Murray who didn't turn down the Marlies coaching job.

Say this much for Berdych: The guy is legit. He has top-five talent and now has to learn to be a top-five player. Yesterday, he beat Nadal and the wind, neither of which were co-operative. Berdych remains the only tennis player on the tour to have a victory over Federer and a victory over Nadal while they are the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players in the world.

His only win over Federer came at the Olympics in Athens. One of their recent matches, he won the first set over Mr. Perfect by an astounding score of 6-0.

This Berdych can dazzle when he has to. Even if we just discovered all of this for the first time yesterday.

The villain doesn't see himself as much of a bad guy. It isn't his job to care what the people want. It's his job to play, his job to win.

"Maybe for the spectators (I'm a villain)," he said, when asked about it. "But that's their problem."

Then Berdych went on to say that if he was a paying customer, he wouldn't want to see Federer and Nadal every week. He thinks too much of the same -- and isn't that what we love? -- is tiresome.

"I don't know if I'm a spectator and every week I can see the final as Federer-Nadal. I don't know if it's nice for tennis. So I think it's good that there will be a different final. I hope I can make a couple of more matches and maybe be with Roger in the final."

Great as Nadal may be, he is no Federer, at least not in Berdych's mind. And now Berdych must learn to relax against Federer the way he relaxed against Nadal.

And one more thing about Tomas Berdych: He is a hockey fan. Doesn't care much for the Leafs, but he is big on Dominik Hasek and on the Red Wings.

Just what you'd expect from a Toronto tournament spoiler.


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