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15 September 2013

Czechs look ahead to final


MATCH REPORT

By Craig Gabriel

Photo: Martin SidorjakRadek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych (CZE)

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: Czech Davis Cup captain Jaroslav Navratil was very confident his team would seal their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal with the doubles rubber and reach the final for the second year in a row and for the third time in five years. Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek did not let him or the 11,200+ home town fans down, clinching an unassailable 3-0 lead after defeating Argentina's Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos on Saturday.

Zeballos and Leonardo Mayer put two consolation points on the board for the visitors with dead-rubber victories over Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely respectively, but Berdych and Stepanek had already done enough for the defending champions in the opening two days of the tie to set up a final clash with Serbia in Belgrade.

“They have played alongside each other very well and the surface was really fast for Argentina and Tomas and Radek only lose one match in doubles, so my confidence was very good,” said Navratil.

But unlike last year Czech Republic will be playing an away final, something they also have experience with having lost to Spain 5-0 five years ago in Seville.

Playing an away final presents a completely different challenge – the choice of surface is no longer in the equation, the facility is completely foreign and the vast majority of the crowd, usually the fifth member of a team, is not going to provide a sense of well-being.

“For sure it is tough playing away,” said Navratil. “In 2009 against Spain we are losing that time very easily 5-0, but my guys are good and experienced enough to play finals outside.”

The Czech Republic will come up against Serbia in the final after the 2010 champions pulled off a 3-2 win over Canada in Belgrade. It will be the 12th time the two nations have faced off with the Czechs leading the series by a narrow 6-5 margin. The last time they met was in the 2012 quarterfinals in Prague when the Czechs won.

“Serbia is an incredibly tough opponent,” Navratil added. “The whole Serbian team is really strong especially when they play at home. We had that experience when we played them in 2010 and it was not easy because they also have a great and very loud crowd which can help them and they have the experience of winning the Davis Cup a couple of years ago and they are still hungry to do it again.

“Really no easy opponents at all but on the other hand we still think and believe that our goal going there is that we can still make it. Serbia is tough opposition because they have the player who is No. 1, (Novak) Djokovic and he has good series with Tomas and Radek but you never know. Novak basically can only win two points and they need to win three.

"In the past we managed to beat strong teams like that so we will try to repeat it. There are still some tournaments to play in the season and the Masters (ATP World Tour Final) in London and I hope my players stay without the injuries and they come to the final healthy.”

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