Czechmate for Argentina
Berdych-Stepanek seal 3-0 victory for defending champs; Canada take 2-1 lead
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek put defending champions Czech Republic into the Davis Cup final by beating Argentina's Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos in the doubles on Saturday.
World No 5 Berdych and US Open doubles champion Stepanek defeated the Argentines 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, giving the Czechs an unassailable 3-0 lead in their semifinal at Prague and a place in their third final in five years.
In the other last-four battle at Belgrade, Canada took a 2-1 lead after their doubles pair of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil won a marathon clash against Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic.
In a see-saw battle contest that swung back and forth, Nestor and Pospisil held their nerve towards the end, winning the dramatic contest 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 10-8.
Games went with serve in the final set until the tiring Zimonjic sliced a backhand into the net on his serve and Pospisil held in the final game of the strength-sapping contest.
The Czechs’ all-time best doubles pairing with a 13-1 record were playing together for the first time this season and in front of a crowd of more than 11,000 at Prague’s O2 Arena, where the team lifted the trophy for the first time as an independent nation last year.
Stepanek, coming into the competition on the back of winning the men’s doubles title with Leander Paes at Flushing Meadows last weekend, immediately set his sights on another Davis Cup title.
“We would like to keep that trophy because it's beautiful,” he said at the courtside after the match.
“It feels great; this competition means a lot to us. It is an honour to play in front of our home crowd, our home fans.”
The Czech duo, who played in every live rubber in the title run last year, teamed up for the first time this year after injuries prevented them playing the early rounds together.
With the crowd behind them, they looked more at ease with the fast pace on the hard court surface, which gave Argentina problems just as it did Spain in last year’s final.
The Czech pair, following up singles wins over Juan Monaco and Leonardo Mayer on Friday, showed their experience in the first set on Saturday, fighting off a break point to go up 4-3. They then broke the Argentines before serving out the set.
The second set played out similarly before the Czechs were able to break Berlocq’s serve for the second time to go up 4-3. The Argentine pair got back to 5-4 but Berdych served well and finished off the set with a smash.
Berdych, the Czechs’ top player, broke Zeballos in the third set to go up 3-2 when he fired a forehand winner from the baseline that made Berlocq step out of the way.
The Czechs never looked back and Berdych sent the team through to the final on his first match ball.
Results: At Prague: Czech Republic lead Argentina 3-0 (On Saturday: Tomas Berdych/ Radek Stepanek bt Carlos Berlocq/ Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4, 6-2; On Friday: Radek Stepanek bt Juan Monaco 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 and Tomas Berdych bt Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4);
At Belgrade: Serbia trail Canada 1-2 (On Saturday: Ilija Bozoljac/ Nenad Zimonjic lt to Daniel Nestor/ Vasek Pospisil 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 8-10; On Friday: Novak Djokovic bt Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 and Janko Tipsarevic lt to Milos Raonic 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-10).