Czech Republic and Italy are regular foes in Davis Cup play, having faced each other on no fewer than ten previous occasions. The Czechs lead the series 7-3, although nine of these wins came when they played under the combined flag of Czechoslovakia. The rivalry dates way back to 1928.
The last time these two nations met, in 1995, the Italians claimed a 4-1 victory in Naples, but the meeting prior to that one, in 1980, was without question the most significant. The occasion was the Davis Cup Final in Prague and this time it was the turn of the Czechs, led by Ivan Lendl and Tomas Smid, to record a 4-1 win. It remains their sole Davis Cup triumph to date.
Czech Republic will be hoping for a different outcome to 12 months ago when they hosted Kazakhstan in the World Group first round, also in Ostrava, the same stadium as this tie. The newly promoted Kazakhs overturned a 1-2 deficit on the final day to seal a memorable 3-2 victory. Jaroslav Navratil’s men comfortably avoided relegation, however, when they whitewashed Romania 5-0 in Bucharest. With the exception of one season, in 2006, the Czechs have been an ever present nation in the World Group since this format was introduced 30 years ago.
In contrast, Italy are making their first appearance in the World Group for over a decade after they gained promotion last year with wins over Slovenia 5-0 and Chile 4-1. The tie against Chile would have brought back happy memories for Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti because it took place at the same venue, Santiago’s Estadio Nacional, as the one which Italy lifted the Davis Cup trophy for the only time, in 1976. Barazzutti, alongside Adriano Panatta, was a key player during that title winning season. Italy have also finished runner-up on six occasions.