GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: It is nine years since Switzerland ventured beyond the first round of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group. For that run to end this weekend, the host nation must overcome the Czech Republic at the Palexpo in Geneva.
In eight previous meetings, Switzerland have got the better of the Czech team on just two occasions – and the last of those was 15 years ago. Add to that the absence of Roger Federer from the Swiss side, and you could be forgiven for fearing another first round disappointment.
Oh, and did I mention that the Czech Republic just so happen to be the reigning champions?
But, for the home team, there are at least a couple of positives with which to carry into the next few days.
The visitors are without leading doubles player and the experienced campaigner Radek Stepanek, while in Stanislas Wawrinka they have a player who has started 2013 in fantastic fashion, highlighted by a narrow, enthralling five-set defeat to eventual winner Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
Wawrinka admits he is happy to shoulder the responsibility but suggests they face a tough task ahead.
“With Tomas (Berdych) leading their team it is going to be very difficult for us but it is a good challenge and is a great opportunity for us to show that we can do something in this competition.”
And this is a competition that Wawrinka relishes. He is making his 17th appearance in the Davis Cup, though this is some way short of Berdych. The Czech No. 1 is set to feature in Davis Cup number 24.
Berdych is keen to stress that the team may arrive as defending champions but they start from scratch once again. He admits, though, that victory in Prague last November will serve as inspiration for their 2013 campaign.
“It was amazing moment. The atmosphere, the feelings, everything. I never experienced anything like that so far, but once we take to the court against Switzerland we must forget that and focus on the moment right now.”
Stepanek was the hero in Prague three months ago, winning the fifth and decisive rubber to seal victory for his team. His absence means an opportunity for Lukas Rosol, who faces Wawrinka in Friday’s first singles rubber.
Rosol said: “I knew that this time would come. Every time last year I was prepared to play a live match and finally it is here.
“The pressure is on because it is my first live match but there is no pressure because we won the title last year.
“Every year is different. We have to go match after match. We need to first win here against Switzerland, and we know that won’t be easy.”
Rosol’s match against Wawrinka is followed on Friday by Berdych versus Henri Laaksonen, before what many believe will be a pivotal doubles on Saturday.
That match involves Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli against Ivo Minar and debutant Jiri Vesely.
Chiudinelli said: “Unfortunately in the past we have lost too many of the doubles. Hopefully that can change this weekend to take some of the pressure off Stan’s (Wawrinka) shoulders for Sunday.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
R2: Henri Laaksonen (SUI) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R3: Marcos Chiudinelli/Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Tomas Berdych/Ivo Minar (CZE)
R4: Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R5: Henri Laaksonen (SUI) v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 31/01/2013
Henri Laaksonen (SUI) - 31/01/2013
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 31/01/2013
Lukas Rosol (CZE) - 31/01/2013
Captain Severin Luthi (SUI) - 31/01/2013
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) - 31/01/2013
Marcos Chiudinelli/Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) - 31/01/2013