OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC: Tomas Berdych survived an early scare against Mikhail Kukushkin to level the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie between Czech Republic and Kazakhstan at 1-1 after the first day of play.
Meeting the Kazakh for the first time, Berdych was left in the unusual position of trailing his opponent by a break in the opening set. Battling back to lead 6-5, the Czech No.1 saw a set point come and go, before recovering from a 2-5 deficit in the tiebreak to take the set 7-6(5).
Looking more and more comfortable as the match went on, Berdych soon accelerated into a 4-0 lead in the second set, leaving Kukushkin floundering on the Cez Arena’s hard court. Holding serve to love to lead 5-1, the world No.7 gave the exuberant home crowd plenty to cheer about as he rounded off the second set 6-2.
Kukushkin recovered some of his former glory in the third set, pushing Berdych into longer rallies, but it was not enough to halt the big Czech, who romped through 76(5) 62 63.
“It was quite a tough match,” said Berdych. “I didn’t know him too much, and he starts, I would say, incredibly well, he was playing really good tennis. He was fighting for every single point, he doesn’t give me one easy point. It’s just for me another tough match that I won, and I’m very happy for that, that I could bring the point to the locker.
“I’m so happy to be back again and enjoying this Davis Cup atmosphere, you cannot get it anywhere on the tour, it is very special, unique. I love to be at home, I think the crowd are great, they are fair as well, so I think the atmosphere was nice, that’s part of the Davis Cup.”
“I’m really happy that I played well today,” said Kukushkin. “I was fighting, I had many winners, I enjoyed the game. Against a Top 10 player, [that] is going to give me a lot of confidence.”
Earlier, Kazakh No.1 Andrey Golubev pulled off a memorable five-set victory to win his first-ever World Group rubber, defeating Czech Jan Hajek to put the visitors 1-0 up.
The world No. 43, who boasts a 9-1 singles record in Davis Cup, was the clear favourite going into the match, but 27-year-old Hajek made life hard for a nervous-looking Golubev, going two sets to one ahead before the Kazakh came back to seal a thrilling 76(4) 67(3) 16 76(4) 63 victory.
With the Czech fans creating deafening noise levels inside the Cez Arena, forcing umpire Mohamed El Jennati to quieten them constantly, neither player was able to make an inroad, until Golubev snuck through a first set tiebreak 7-6(4).
But, forced into a second set tiebreak, Hajek suddenly burst into life. Roaring into a 5-2 lead, he took advantage of a Golubev double-fault to level the match at one-set all 7-6(3).
The Czech player then rampaged through the third set, leaping into a two-sets-to-one lead. But Golubev rallied, sending the fourth set into another tiebreak, and this time it was he who romped into an early lead, levelling the rubber once more at two sets all.
By the fifth set, with Hajek tiring, Golubev had finally found his momentum, sealing his first five-set victory in 3 hours 37 minutes.
“I think it was a really tough match, it was first time I play five sets so I’m happy to win,” said Golubev. “It was not easy because I play so bad, I can play much, much better, I know that. It’s important that I win, I served well, the serve saved me today.”
“It was a very tough match I think for both of us, I think in the fourth set I was very close to finish the match, I had a break point for 5-4, but this is tennis,” said Hajek. “I’m happy that I could play at home, the fans they are very good. I enjoy it, the match, but I’m not so happy because I lost.”
Czech pair Lukas Dlouhy and Jiri Vesely are scheduled to contest the doubles rubber tomorrow against Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin of Kazakhstan.
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 03/04/2011
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) - 04/03/2011