BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Czech Republic have put themselves into the driving seat in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinal against Argentina by taking a 2-1 lead following the doubles rubber.
Coming into the second day, the tie was locked at 1-1 after the first day’s singles but the Czechs, with what has turned into a two man team with Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, defeated Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank 63 64 63 in 2 hours 37 minutes.
“The scoreline says it was comfortable but as you can see the first set was like an hour,” Stepanek said. “The guys came pumped up to the match, it was Carlos’s premier Davis Cup and in front of such a crowd, you come almost over motivated, but we concentrated on our half of the court. We knew what we have between each other in Davis Cup doubles and I think we proved it from the beginning to the last point.”
Berdych and Stepanek replaced the originally nominated Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol, something everyone expected their captain Jaroslav Navratil to do, and it certainly paid dividends. They went on the attack from the first game and kept the pressure on Berlocq and Schwank, who are all but a scratch pairing.
The two pairs played some incredibly long games early in the match. The third game was especially long, it lasted about 20 minutes and when the Czechs broke Berlocq in that game there was a sense it could have been a deciding factor even at that early stage.
Certainly with the crowd’s very noisy encouragement the home tandem were trying to make inroads but it was to no avail as Berdych and Stepanek kept coming up with answers. The Czech fans, which numbers about 120 with their vuvuzelas, were adding to the noise and atmosphere and on some occasions, albeit rarely, even drowned out the drums, bells and whistles of the Argentines.
“It’s very loud in here and we knew that when we were coming to this place,” Stepanek said. “It was always going to be like that so we concentrated only on our half of the court. We said before the match, we play the match together and we are partners and stick together all the way no matter what. That’s all we did and we are very pleased with our performance.”
In the third set, the Czechs broke Berlocq’s serve in the second game and after Stepanek survived break points on his serve in the third game, the visitors opened up a 3-0 lead. The Argentines got one break back and at 5-3 with Berdych serving for the match, the locals worked on applying some additional pressure.
Berdych struggled a bit in that game. He hadn’t been threatened on his serve the whole match and here he was, serving for a 2-1 series lead and he just couldn’t finish things off. Eventually, with Stepanek’s help, it came together and they were able to clinch the victory.
The Czech fans unfurled a massive Czech flag and their noise levels went up by what seemed like 100 decibels.
“If the whole match is like that, I wasn’t even at 30-30 on my serve so it has to come at least once,” Berdych said. “It came, I finished it up, I didn’t lose serve, Radek helped me a lot and that what it’s all about and we made it.”
In the reverse singles on Sunday, Berdych is expected to meet No. 45 Carlos Berlocq, who looks likely to replace the injured Juan Martin del Potro. If the Argentine can pull off a shock win then the fifth rubber is scheduled to pit Stepanek against Juan Monaco.
Del Potro has been battling with a wrist injury of late and despite recording victory over Stepanek on Friday he indicated on Saturday that he would struggle to contest his second singles rubber against Berdych. This means the Czech team are now the odds-on favourites to progress to the Final.
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Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 15/09/2012
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 15/09/2012
Captain Martin Jaite (ARG) - 15/09/2012