Robert Smeets.
Robert Smeets.

Smeets plays with double confidence

MARCO MONTEVERDE

THE confidence that Robert Smeets exudes when he's playing doubles needs to ooze when he switches his attention back to singles at Melbourne Park today. Smeets' Australian Open campaign steps up a gear this morning when he takes on 13th seed Tomas Berdych on Margaret Court Arena. Yesterday, the former Ipswich Grammar School student was all class as he combined with fellow Aussie Nathan Healey to dispose of American Kevin Kim and Hyung-Taik Lee, of Korea, 6-1 7-6 in the opening round of the men's doubles. "It was great ? Nathan and I complement each other very well," Smeets said. "I believe in myself when I play doubles." Smeets, 21, is yet to convey the same amount of self-conviction in a one-on-one situation, which is understandable considering his pre-tournament singles world ranking was 360. But beat Berdych today, and there's no doubt the Netherlands-born player will start believing he's worthy of competing against the best in the world. The pair met in the opening round of last week's Sydney International, with the Czech star winning 6-2 7-5. Smeets admitted he was overawed playing on centre court at Homebush and he will face similar pressure on one of Melbourne Park's show courts today. But the previously little-known left-hander is pleased to have been granted his pre-tournament wish of exposure. "Hopefully the match will be televised," he said. "This week's been great for me so far ? it's unbelievable. "I don't mind all the (media) requests at all. There's a lot of them and they probably take up too much time that you should be using to focus on your matches, but I've enjoyed it." Smeets earnt the chance to avenge his Sydney loss to Berdych by beating Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko 6-2 3-6 6-1 6-4 in oppressive conditions on Tuesday. Berdych wasted little energy in disposing of Hyung-Taik Lee 6-1 6-2 6-2 in a one-sided first-round encounter. Smeets said there were no weaknesses in Berdych's game and that he needed to serve well to cause an upset.



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