Johannesburg - The Berdych bogey looms large for battling Kevin Anderson as the world's 19th-ranked South African returns to tournament tennis in the Madrid Open Masters event this week.
After losing his opening matches in his last two tournaments in Casablanca and Monte Carlo last month, Anderson took stock in a two-week training stint with coach Neville Godwin in the United States.
Now, back on the ATP circuit, Anderson faces the prospect of playing his bogeyman Thomas Berdych in the second round if he overcomes another Czech, Radek Stepanek, in his opening match in Madrid.
The 6ft 8in Anderson has, in all, played Berdych 10 times in the past and tumbled to defeat on each occasion, the last time a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 loss in the Australian Open earlier this year.
Berdych, the beaten finalist in last week's Portugal Open, is seeded sixth in Madrid and consequently has a bye into the second round.
Berdych and Anderson have met no fewer than five times last year, with all the bounding Czech's victories emanating in either major grand slam or masters tournaments.
Their meetings go back to 2012 and must now constitute a recurring nightmare for Anderson.
After reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open in January and following this noteworthy achievement by reaching the finals of the Daytona and Mexican Opens, Anderson experienced an alarming downward slide, initially winning only one game in both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters tournaments and then losing his opening matches at both the Casablanca Open and Monte Carlo Open.
“We felt in the circumstances that two weeks of intensive training and taking stock would be the best way forward Ä and I must say that Kevin is hitting the ball as well as ever,” said Godwin, who assumed the role of Anderson's coach at the start of the year.
Godwin said with the ATP circuit now having switched to claycourt competition, culminating in the grand slam French Open in Paris towards the end of May, emphasis had been placed on strategy for this surface in training procedures.
But Anderson's straight set defeats in his only two claycourt matches this year against the cagey, talented Gail Monfils and 50th-ranked Victor Hunescu would seem to bode a degree of concern.
“We are looking for good results in Madrid and Rome from a refreshed Kevin to set him on course for holding onto his current ranking and going a step further during the remainder of the year,” the coach said.
But standing in the way of Anderson in Madrid is the Berdych bogey Äwith three of his 10 defeats against the Czech materialising on clay courts as well.
Also in Madrid, South Africa's Raven Klaasen will be playing in the doubles with American partner Eric Butorac after earning his career-best doubles ranking of 23rd this week.