LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - Call it a hoodoo, the Indian sign or even a curse, some players have winning records against others that go beyond plain bad luck.
Just ask Kevin Anderson, the big-serving South African who met Czech Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon on Saturday for the ninth time in the last 18 months.
Predictably he lost - just like he did on the previous eight occasions, a run that defies the odds given the mere 17 places between the pair in the rankings.
Seventh-seeded Berdych has the greater pedigree, having reached a grand slam final at Wimbledon, but Anderson, a 2.03 metre giant with a firecracker serve, is nobody’s whipping boy.
“I guess that’s just how it goes,” Anderson told Reuters after losing a tight encounter in four sets. “I have not played anybody that many times without at least being on the board.”
With an understandable sense of resignation, he struggled to explain how it was that, despite his best efforts, he cannot chalk up a win against the big-hitting Czech.
Anderson is ranked 23 in the world, an experienced tour campaigner who has troubled some of the game’s best players.
He has recorded wins over Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and David Ferrer, three of the game’s current top four.
In Berdych, however, Anderson has found an obstacle he can’t break down no matter how hard he tries.
”I don’t think he has one over me,“ he said. ”It is very far in the back of my mind that I have lost to him previously when we play.
”It is a new match, it is another opportunity. Just being him specifically or any prior history, I don’t really pay too much attention to it.
“If I play him again I am not going to be thinking of any of the previous ones. I see it as more of a challenge than anything else.”
Anderson is not the first player to discover he has an on-court nemesis, someone whose name on the drawsheet can be enough to force an opponent to break out in a cold sweat.
Berdych has his own bete noire in the shape of current world number one Djokovic.
After the Czech beat him in the semi-final at Wimbledon in 2010, Djokovic retaliated by winning their next 11 meetings.
The Serb has a perfect 7-0 or better record against seven men, including his third round opponent on Saturday, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Spain’s Ferrer, nicknamed ‘The Wall’ for his ability to relentlessly return the ball, has nonetheless lost all 14 of his matches against Roger Federer.
While perhaps the most famous losing record of them all belonged to the late Vitas Gerulaitis.
“And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row,” warned Gerulaitis, who was Australian Open champion in 1977, after ending a run of 16 straight defeats by Jimmy Connors.
Berdych will not get to 17 if Anderson can help it.
The South African is certainly not ready to throw in the towel and is not even planning to change his gameplan to try and break the spell.
“It’s just about executing, who is going to make the shots at the right time,” he added.
“I don’t feel I need to do anything that differently I just need to probably play a little bit better.”
For Anderson, losing records are the result of a mismatch in styles, when one player’s weaknesses are exposed by another’s great strengths.
“You look at Tomas’s record against Djokovic. He has struggled against him,” he added.
”With Tomas’s game, he hits through the ball, he takes time away, he is a very different player to say David Ferrer.
“Not that that is any easier but it is a bit more in my comfort zone playing against Ferrer’s style of tennis.”
Berdych will now play Australia’s Bernard Tomic in the last 16. For the record, they have never played each other. (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ken Ferris)