OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC: Czech Republic maintained its status as the third-best team in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group as Tomas Berdych and Lukas Dlouhy combined to put the Czechs 2-1 ahead in its first round tie against Kazakhstan.
Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil opted for experience over youth and exuberance by replacing the nominated Jiri Vesely with Berdych for the crucial doubles rubber, putting the world No.7 in alongside doubles expert Dlouhy. The duo had played just one Davis Cup doubles together, during their 5-0 whitewash over Morocco in Europe/Africa Zone Group I in 2006.
The pair seemed to have no trouble gelling from the minute umpire Mohamed El Jennati said ‘play’, breaking the Korolev serve immediately, and then breaking the Schukin serve to race to a 5-2 lead. The Kazakhs fought back, undercutting Dlouhy’s serve as he served for the set. But they could not stem Berdych’s firepower, as the big Czech hammered down an ace to take the set 6-4 on their first set point.
Any signs that the Kazhaks were rattled by the vociferous home crowd, who had the makings of a marching band, were well concealed as Korolev and Schukin kept their noses in front throughout the second set. But when the crunch came, Berdych and Dlouhy raised their level to break the Korolev serve at 3-3, and the Wimbledon finalist served out the second set to love, 6-4.
Once again the Kazakh duo came out undeterred at the start of the third. At 3-3 Schukin survived three deuces on his serve, applauded by his bench every step of the way. But he could not do the same at 5-5, Berdych depositing a huge volley to bring up two break points, and sealing the break with a forehand return winner. Although the Kazakhs broke back at the death to send the set into a tiebreak, it was too little too late, Korolev double-faulting on the first point to give the Czechs an early mini-break, and they never looked back. A Dlouhy ace brought up five match points at 6-1, before Berdych sealed a 64 64 76(5) victory with another ace.
“We were going into this match with the mindset that we have to play our game and we have to focus for our team,” said Dlouhy. “We did well; we went through in three sets. I would say that it was a great match from both sides.”
“They played more solid, they used the chances they got, and I think is what we didn’t do so well today,” said Korolev. “Sometimes when I had chances I didn’t use them, I was going maybe too quick for the winner. But it’s the first match we played together in Davis Cup; I think we’re going to do only better.”
“It wasn’t maybe so lucky for us, said Kazakhstan captain Yegor Shaldunov, “but it was really good work, and concentration, just not so lucky. A few moments and deciding points, I think statistics should show the same, that it’s only a few points that they lose.”
Berdych is due to face Andrey Golubev in the first of tomorrow’s reverse singles, followed by Jan Hajek against Mikhail Kukushkin.
“I was ready to come here to play for three days,” said Berdych, “and I’m ready for that. The people are going to come again, they see that the tie is not done yet, they can see nice matches again, and it just needs me to bring good form and play well and try to bring the third point.”
Tomas Berdych and Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) - 05/03/2011
Evgeny Korolev & Yuriy Schukin (KAZ) discuss doubles loss