PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: It is the second year in a row that Argentina and Czech Republic meet in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals. Last year the Czechs handed Argentina a very rare defeat on home soil at the Parque Roca. Now the visitors are hoping and wondering if they can turn the tables and dish out the same sort of punishment at the O2 Arena in Prague.
“The tennis always gives you a chance for revenge,” said Argentine captain Martin Jaite. “We have lost a tough semifinal last year but we are very happy to be again in the semifinals and we are happy to be in Prague. We have to play very, very well and have chances – we play the defending champions, a great team.”
The draw for the tie has new US Open doubles champion Radek Stepanek, the man who gave his team the point that won last year’s Davis Cup Final, taking on Juan Monaco first, before Tomas Berdych plays Leonardo Mayer. The doubles rubber on Saturday has Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely playing Carlos Berocq and Horacio Zeballos. However everyone expects the Czech doubles team to be Stepanek and Berdych, a point confirmed by Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil.
Sunday’s final day reverse singles sees the respective No.1’s, Berdych and Monaco, take to the courts first and then Stepanek faces Mayer.
“For sure we are with good thoughts on playing the semifinal here,” said Navratil. “We had good memories playing one year ago against Argentina in Buenos Aires and this time we play at home so this is our advantage. I hope on this surface, with our spectators, we can win the matches, beat Argentina and come to our third final in five years.”
Certainly the crowd will pay a part as they did in last year’s final. It’s an aspect Stepanek is excited about.
“Here I feel more responsibility (compared to playing the US Open) for my country and my team and all the fans supporting us – they are our unofficial team member and it’s a privilege to play in front of a home crowd,” said Stepanek.
The fact that Stepanek is coming off a big result from the US Open, despite it being in doubles and not singles, is definitely not lost on Monaco. The No. 1 Argentine is the most experienced player and spiritual leader of his side, but that still did not stop him from providing the youngest squad member, Juan Pablo Paz, with a shocking and very amusing haircut.
The funny stuff to one side, his focus is on his first match.
“It’s going to be difficult, we have fast courts here, faster than we expect but we are here to give our best,” said Monaco. “We have to give everything we have to reach the final. It’s not going to be easy but we have to be ready to fight for every point.”
“It is a tough match. Stepanek’s game adapts very well on these courts but I’m ready. I have good preparation. I’m improving my game on these courts and I’m ready to give my best.”
Berdych would certainly be the favourite in the second singles on day one even though Leonardo Mayer had a reasonable US Open before losing to Andy Murray. Berdych says he still feels the atmosphere after last year’s final so to be back at the same place provides an extra lift.
“The arena make up feels great and we will try to do our best and continue this winning streak here in Prague,” said Berdych. “We thought it would be Mayer playing the second singles. His game is suited to these courts. I saw some of his match against Andy Murray at the Open and he played well but I won’t change my game; just stay focused and patient from the first point till the last.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Radek Stepanek (CZE) v Juan Monaco (ARG)
R2: Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
R3: Lukas Rosol/Jiri Vesely (CZE) v Carlos Berlocq/Horacio Zeballos (ARG)
R4: Tomas Berdych (CZE) v Juan Monaco (ARG)
R5: Radek Stepanek (CZE) v Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
Carlos Berlocq/Horacio Zeballos (ARG) - 12/9/13
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 12/9/13
Captain Martin Jaite (ARG) - 12/9/13
Leonardo Mayer (ARG) - 12/9/13
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 12/9/13
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 12/9/13
Lukas Rosol/Jiri Vesely (CZE) - 12/9/13
Radek Stepanek (CZE) - 12/9/13