Czechs take charge of Cup semifinal

Updated: 2013-09-15 07:35

By Agence France-Presse in Prague (China Daily)

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Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych handed the Czech Republic a 2-0 lead over Argentina in their Davis Cup semifinal on Friday, bringing the reigning champion to within a point of the final.

Stepanek, the world No 61 and Czech No 2, saw off 30th-ranked Argentine No 1 Juan Monaco 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 33 minutes in the opening rubber.

Then fifth-ranked Berdych beat world No 93 Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and one minute.

On the super-fast acrylic hard court of Prague's O2 Arena, where the Czechs lifted the trophy last year after beating Spain 3-2, a dominant Stepanek capitalized on his aggressive style and an improving serve against Monaco.

"I tried to be active all the time, I was on the defensive for a while, then I attacked, took a few risks, so I played what we had set as the tactics," Stepanek said.

"I'm happy with my performance," said the 34-year-old after earning his fifth win from seven games against the 29-year-old Monaco.

Monaco admitted Stepanek was the better man on the court.

"He played so much better than me. I had my chances in the first set but couldn't make it and somehow he figured it out to play better, with more confidence, and the match became difficult for me," he said.

"In the final set I thought I'm going to come back, but he played really well.

"He impressed me a little bit, I knew that he's a good player on this kind of court, but he played really well today," Monaco said.

In their first-ever encounter, Berdych, 27, and Mayer, 26 - both fast servers - were tied after two evenly-matched sets, in which they each snatched a late break for a 6-4 win.

But Berdych then produced some more precise play and took early breaks in both of the next two sets, never offering Mayer a way back into the rubber.

The winner will take on either Canada or Serbia in the Nov 15-17 final.

That tie is all-square at 1-1 after Janko Tipsarevic failed to follow up Novak Djokovic's opening win.

In the first rubber, it took only 100 minutes for world No 1 Djokovic to rout 41st-ranked Canadian Vasek Pospisil.

Djokovic, who arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday after losing to Spain's Rafael Nadal in the third of four consecutive bids to win the US Open final, only allowed Pospisil a total of six games, racking up a series of 13 in a row and easily winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-4.

"Playing for my country additionally inspires me and gives me an extra strength. I played extremely good and I am very happy to have brought a lead to Serbia," Djokovic told reporters after the match.

But in the following rubber, Montenegro-born Canadian Milos Raonic, the world No 11, defeated the 23rd-ranked Tipsarevic in a dramatic five-set match 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.

It was Tipsarevic's ninth singles five-setter while playing for Serbia in the Davis Cup.

 Czechs take charge of Cup semifinal

The Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych watches the ball as he falls during his Davis Cup semifinal against Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in Prague on Friday. Petr Josek / Reuters

(China Daily 09/15/2013 page7)