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Barry blogs on Berdych, Nishikori, and the Australian Open prize money

Barry Cowan Posted 3rd October 2012 view comments

The tennis year is a long one and with four Grand Slams to negotiate some players struggle for motivation after the US Open.

But the next few months will be massive for the men looking to secure a spot in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals at London's 02 Arena.

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have qualified but there are still five berths up for grabs - and I expect Tomas Berdych to snare one of them.

Czech point: Berdych will be a tough man to negotiate this autumn, says Barry

Czech point: Berdych will be a tough man to negotiate this autumn, says Barry

The Czech had a wretched period over the summer - losing in the first round at Wimbledon and the Olympics - but fans of the 27-year-old will know the potential is there and, after reaching the US Open semis, he should thrive throughout the rest of 2012.

Berdych is a rhythm player and can be affected by the weather, as he was by the wind when he lost to Andy Murray in New York, but with the majority of events from here on being indoors the former Wimbledon finalist will pose a big threat.

Berdych is a great front-foot player but he can't use his athleticism to get himself out of tricky situations.

Barry Cowan
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The world number five should, with Rafa Nadal currently sidelined, be looking to become the unofficial fourth best player on the planet by the time the 2012 campaign comes to close.

But for him to really mix it regularly with the top guys he needs to win big matches when he's not playing his best tennis.

He is a great front-foot player but one of the reasons he hasn't won a Grand Slam is that he can't use his athleticism to get himself out of tricky situations, something Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal can do when it really matters

Inexperienced

Japan's Kei Nisikori will not make it to the 02 Arena in November, but he should enjoy playing in his home continent over the next few weeks.

The 22-year-old has only made it to the quarter-finals of one Grand Slam - the 2012 Australian Open - but he is still so inexperienced.

He emerged this time last year and therefore had a lot of ranking points to defend this term, but I think the world number 17 has done pretty well.

Nishikori must be judged at the end of 2013, by which time he will be hoping to be in and around the top 10. To do, that, though, he needs to improve all facets of his game.

He is a very aggressive baseliner but I'm not sure he has a Plan B yet, something that will win him matches when he is not at his best.

Nishikori's height - he is only 5ft 10in - may count against him, but Nikolay Davydenko was no giant and he firmly established himself in the top 10. Nishikori will hope to replicate that, but it is harder to do now with the game going even more vertical.

Along with Nishikori, Japan have Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito inside the world's top 75 and it is essential that players from that part of the world continue to develop.

When tennis was introduced into the Olympics in 1988 it opened up the sport to other countries and we have seen how the Chinese have made strides in the women's game.

There is no reason guys from Japan and China can't get to the top of the men's game.

Assault

Andy Murray is not the world number one but he is seen as the man of the moment following his triumphs at the Olympics and the US Open.

He has struggled after the US Open in the past as, like Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, he builds his year around the Grand Slams, but he will be seeing the next few months as a building block for next season as he plots his assault on topping the world rankings

The Scot will be trying to get as many points on the board as possible during the remainder of the campaign to show he is not resting on his laurels and is still determined to improve.

Murray would love to finish off an excellent year in London by adding the World Tour Finals crown to his Wimbledon runner-up spot and Olympic gold medal.

He should go into that event with a mind-set that he is the favourite and how he copes with that will be interesting; sometimes it is easier being the hunter rather than the hunted.

And finally...

Australian Open officials announced this week that next year's major in Melbourne will have increased prize money and I am pleased that has ended any chance of a potential boycott by the players.

However, I am slightly concerned that the wealth entering the game is top heavy and I think that the cash should have been spent on improving the Challenger circuit, where the prize money hasn't changed for over 20 years.

The week before US Open qualifying there wasn't a Challenger event in the United States so basically the players outside the world's top 100 were not allowed to work.

Losers in the first round of the Australian Open may now get something resembling 30,000 dollars, but only around 1,000 dollars for winning a challenger. I'm not sure that's right.

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