With Tomas Berdych missing through injury and Radek Stepanek not at full strength, Czech Republic captain Jaroslav Navratil needed someone else to step up to the plate in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan.
Step forward Lukas Rosol. The 27-year-old had already played a significant part in Davis Cup for the defending champions in February when he teamed up with Berdych to beat Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka in a seven hour and one minute five-set doubles epic, which finished 2422 in the deciding set.
And after following up Jan Hajek’s win over Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening rubber with victory against Andrey Golubev, Rosol took advantage of his chance to shine in Kazakhstan as he clinched the 3-1 win by holding his nerve to beat Evgeny Korolev in four sets, a performance which had his captain calling him the “leader” of the team in Astana.
It was an impressive weekend from Rosol whose efforts, which helped to ensure the Czechs go to No. 1 in the Davis Cup Nations rankings for the first time, came after making a marathon trip for the tie from Guadeloupe where he reached the semifinals of the Le Gosier Challenger the previous week.
Rosol, the man who famously beat Rafael Nadal in the second round of last year’s Wimbledon Championships, said: “It was not easy to travel through six airports for 23 hours. I got to the hotel on Tuesday morning at 6:30am.
“I had seven weeks in a row, this was the eighth week. But we had a great team around us and they take good care of the players.”
For Navratil there was a sense of relief that his side had managed to overcome a potential hurdle in Kazakhstan, who have posted some impressive victories on home soil in the past against Austria and Switzerland, to reach September’s semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
Navratil said: “Kazakshtan is not an easy place to come. We were fighting without Tomas and Radek after his operation was not 100% ready. Lukas and Jan showed us nice tennis to get the three points.”
Immediately after the tie had concluded, Navratil had not been shy in stating his desire for a home tie against Argentina rather than an away trip to France and he got his wish as Carlos Berlocq beat Gilles Simon in the deciding rubber later that night to set up a repeat of last year’s semifinal in which the Czechs defeated Argentina 3-2 in Buenos Aires.
There was a sense amongst the Kazakhstan camp, though, that they had missed an opportunity against a weakened Czech side to gain a place in the last four for the first time, but captain Dias Doskarayev is pleased to be guaranteed a place in next year’s World Group by virtue of the win over Austria in the first round.
Although now ranked outside the top 150, Kukushkin, Golubev and Korolev have all at one time been ranked within the top 50 and Doskarayev will now hope that they can find some of their old form in time for next January, to which he is looking forward already.
Dosakarayev said: “It’s exciting to be in the World Group. From the very beginning when we are trying to set the goals, the primary goal is to stay in the World Group because it helps to keep Kazakhstan on the tennis map in the world.
“Secondly it helps for the people to know we are playing against the best teams in the world. Czech Republic came here as the world champions and the fans are just going crazy. This kind of match is a huge step forward in the development of tennis in Kazakhstan.”