Russia has booked their place in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, for the fourth successive year, after an eventful three days at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow.
The tie pitted two young tennis nations against each other, who had proud tennis histories before the collapse of communism. Prior to 1991, it was Czechoslovakia who had the better of the Soviet Union, but since Russia's independence, they've emerged as one of tennis's top powers, and were determined not to relinquish their unbeaten record against the Czechs.
Russia unbeaten at home since 1995
The Russian side didn't have the best preparations coming into the tie. Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny were rumoured to be unfit, while Marat Safin, the hero of so many Davis Cup victories in the past was chronically out of form with just one victory since the turn of the year, way back in January in the first round of the Australian Open. The Czech Republic were underdogs, against a Russian side who hadn't lost at home since 1995, but they could sense an upset.
”Our belief that we could win the tie certainly improved after the draw”, commented the Czech captain, Jaroslav Navratil.
Russia's captain, Shamil Tarpishchev is known as one of the competition's master tactician's. However even his most ardent followers might have questioned his decision to play Safin, the world number 87 against an inform Tomas Berdych, fresh from a semi-final appearance at the Miami Masters. But Safin in just under 4 hours battled from two sets down to inflict a first 5 set defeat on Berdych, and repay the faith shown in him by Tarpishchev. Honours were even though after the opening day, as Radek Stepanek earned a straight sets victory against an out of sorts Igor Andreev.
Tarpishchev said after the tie, he didn't expect his side to win the doubles rubber. It looked as though he would be proved correct after the Czech pairing of Stepanek and the 37 year old veteran, Pavel Vizner went a set up against Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev. However, Andreev redeemed himself following his poor singles performance, by playing some inspired tennis, as Russia hit back to win in four sets, and leave them just one rubber away from a place in the last four.
Czech hopes dashed
Russia's number one, Nikolay Davydenko, returned to play the crucial fourth rubber against Tomas Berdych, who had failed to beat the Russian in the 6 previous attempts. It was an exhilarating tie, which went all the way to a fifth set, where... Czech hopes were dashed. Tomas Berdych rolled his ankle and was unable to continue after receiving treatment. For the second time in a row, Russia move through to the next round courtesy of an injury. Just two months ago it was Novak Djokovic who had to pull out, with Nikolay Davydenko again the opponent.
”I don't know what it is about the court, maybe it's something mystical. It's difficult to put your finger on it, but every time I play here I seem to get some outside help,” said Davydenko.
Lukas Dlouhy gained a small crumb of comfort for the Czech Republic with victory in the fifth rubber against Marat Safin, but it's Russia who moves through to the next stage to play Argentina, a tie Tarpishchev's side will need to prepare well for.
”It's going to be difficult to play in Argentina because of the time difference. We will need at least 9 days to try and adapt to the conditions”, commented the Russian captain.
Related Links on other websites
> Information in Russian - RTF
> Information in Czech - CTA
Related Links on Daviscup.com
> Tie Information
> Scorecards and stats from this tie
> Berdych retirement sends Russia through
> Russia in sight of the semifinals
> Stepanek strikes back for Czechs
> Extraordinary win for Safin
> Safin picked for singles