BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: It’s all square on the red clay courts of Parque Roca. The first day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas should have seen home team Argentina leading the Czech Republic 2-0. It was well and truly heading that way.
Juan Martin del Potro had secured the first point of the weekend when he beat Radek Stepanek 64 64 62 but then Juan Monaco was within two games of a sweep.
In a comeback that is so typical to Davis Cup, Tomas Berdych dug deep to rally from two sets to one and 1-4 down to beat Monaco. Berdych went on a nine game rout to force a fifth set and lead 4-0. Then with the crowd urging Monaco on it was his turn to listen to the inner voice.
Monaco broke back twice but when he was serving to make it 5-5 his game collapsed and Berdych broke to love winning 61 46 16 64 64 in four hours two minutes.
“This was probably the best possible score today, but I think the doubles is a big score for us,” Berdych said. “We are going to do well with Radek and give them the pressure and who knows, 2-1 leading after Saturday, I want to see what’s going to happen on Sunday.”
The match was really a rollercoaster ride and it will be a loss that Monaco will rue for a little while. The winning line was well in sight.
There is certainly no doubt for del Potro playing Davis Cup is something that is so tightly embraced in his heart. The passion often gets to him and while it lifts him, as does the support he enjoys from his adoring fans in Argentina, it probably also causes his emotions to erupt once he comes down from the high he is playing on.
“It’s difficult to play when you have some pains and dangerous pains like my wrist but I am playing here in my country with this fantastic crowd, it’s amazing for me and I really enjoy it,” del Potro said.
Berdych got off to a flying start against Monaco and even though he dropped only one game in the first set it was a lengthy 43 minutes. The second set was to and fro as service breaks were exchanged a few times.
Monaco was up 5-3 but Berdych came back and when he was serving to stay in the set the Argentine broke again to level the match. If there had been a roof over the stadium the noise would have blown it right off.
Once Monaco clinched the second set to level the match you could see the confidence rise in him. In the third set he was moving Berdych all around the court. Serving for the third set, Monaco disguised a drop shot that the Czech, as much as he tried to, could not reach, to bring up set point and Monaco forced Berdych to send a backhand wide. The Parque Roca rocked with approval.
Monaco rolled through the third set dropping just one game. He continued that sort of effort into the fourth set and led 4-1 but incredibly he dropped his guard and Berdych was back in. The Czech took nine consecutive games to win the fourth set and lead 4-0 in the fifth.
“I had pretty much nothing to do but to believe in myself and that I’m a player in the certain level, and I’m able to turn the matches like this even with a crowd like that,” Berdych said. “Everything that was going for him, I was able to get energy from that and that was the result.
“I wasn’t feeling that well in the middle part of the match. I think it was the transfer to here and playing on a different surface and actually it was quite tough. But, it was not tough enough for me and I was able to get (myself) out of that and made it.”
A very disappointed Monaco meanwhile said he had to pick himself off the floor and get ready for the reverse singles.
“Tomorrow is a new day,” he said. “I’m going to recover a little bit, practice, try to get some feeling on court again, then I think I have to eat well, recover and just be ready to play on Sunday and have new revenge I guess on Sunday. That’s the good part of Davis Cup."
The match between del Potro and Stepanek appeared one sided but in fact Stepanek had his fair share of chances. He just wasn’t able to capitalise on those opportunities as del Potro came up with booming returns that kept the Czech at arm’s length.
“I played really well and took all my opportunities,” del Potro said. “To break his serve and play in the clay courts with these fans gets easier than you expect, but still it was a very difficult match for Argentina.”
There were some tremendous baseline rallies during the match, some even comparable to those played by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in the recent final of the US Open. Stepanek was not going away.
“There were a lot of small things and at the end of the day that’s what made the first two sets the difference,” Stepanek said. “Obviously then, in the third set, my opponent was better and that was really over after the second break.”
Stepanek says he will rebound from the disappointment because there is a view that he will get a call up to play doubles on day two. He says he has done this many times before.
“This is not a new situation; I have been in this many times so I will get out of it and I’ll be ready for the doubles if I am nominated and be ready to give everything for my country,” Stepanek said.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 15/09/2012
Captain Martin Jaite (ARG) - 15/09/2012
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 15/09/12
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 14/09/2012
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) - 14/09/2012
Radek Stepanek (CZE) - 14/09/12