PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic had been waiting all year to play a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie at home having not played on home soil since winning the event last November. In their Davis Cup World Group semifinal tie in front of a near capacity arena in Prague they took a commanding 2-0 against Argentina after the first day’s singles rubbers.
Radek Stepanek, who won the deciding match in last year’s final, gave the home side the first point when he defeated Juan Monaco 76 63 62 in two hours 33 minutes. Tomas Berdych then put the Czechs in the driving seat with a 64 46 63 64 victory over Leonardo Mayer in three hours one minute.
“It was very tough,” said Berdych.”Leornardo was playing really good tennis. He had nothing to lose at all, even though the score was not optimal for them – he was going on court when it was 0-1 for us but you know when you play against a guy at the top of the ranking you have nothing to lose and you can bring your best tennis and I think that’s what he did. He played really well.”
It was always the feeling was that the second match might have been the tough for the Czechs because Mayer doesn’t mind playing on faster hard courts. He certainly had Berdych concerned for about two sets. He was testing the world No. 5 and at times Berdych was finding it awkward to penetrate with some of his returns.
The first set took him 45 minutes to secure but Mayer was not dejected. He was keeping the pressure on Berdych who dropped serve in the third game of the second set. The Czech recovered in the eighth game and levelled the set only to drop serve immediately afterwards allowing Mayer to hold and level the match as Berdych netted a forehand.
Berdych knew he had to force the pace and be more aggressive when the third set started and it showed. He opened up a 3-0 lead and then went up 4-1. Berdych was starting to move much better, stepping fluidly into his returns and driving his shots more accurately. He closed out the third set when Mayer sent a forehand long.
The Argentine’s body language showed that he was now starting to feel the pressure.
Berdych jumped to a 2-0 lead. This was the turning point. His serve was starting to become more effective as he went up 4-1 and took the lead when Mayer sent a backhand long on set point. The Czech had his rhythm and Mayer, while still fighting, was being fending off a bit more effectively.
“The second set was not looking as good as I would have liked, especially at the end, losing serve; it was not good on a fast surface like this,” said Berdych. “He was playing really well and I was struggling with my rhythm in the first and second sets but I found it and I started to serve better and then everything worked.”
Earlier, the first set between Stepanek and Monaco was a bit like a rollercoaster. Neither player was able to lay claim to any sort of advantage. Stepanek served for the set at 6-5 but some poor points, which included double faults, saw Monaco force the tiebreak. Stepanek reeled off six consecutive points in the breaks only to drop the next three.
However on the fourth set point Stepanek reached for a backhand volley that he hit to the corner and Monaco was at a loss to retrieve it.
“I knew it was not a good game when I lost serve before the tiebreaker but I also knew the game I had was working so I had no doubts,” said Stepanek. “Yes I know I was a little down at the start of the second set but I got out of it with some positive thinking and I was okay.”
Stepanek rolled through the set then cruised through the third set. He broke Monaco in the third game and again in the fifth. Monaco was not giving up and actually though he could come back in the third. However Stepanek, with the crowd behind him, closed things out when Monaco netted a forehand.
“He played really well,” said Monaco. “He impressed me a little but he is a good player on this kind of courts … but he (just) played really well.”
With the doubles the Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said he would replace his originally nominated team by putting Stepanek and Berdych in “because we want to finish in this game”. In other words he is going for a 3-0 shutout.
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Captain Martin Jaite (ARG)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 13/09/2013
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 13/09/2013
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 13/09/2013
Radek Stepanek (CZE) - 12/09/2013