Czech Republic go into Davis Cup lead 2-1


Mon, Nov 18, 2013 - Page 20

The Czech Republic got within a point of defending their Davis Cup title as Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek beat Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic in Saturday’s doubles in Belgrade.

Berdych and Stepanek won the 14th of their 15 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together as they swept the hosts 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) in two hours and 12 minutes to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead over 2010 champions Serbia.

In yesterday’s reverse singles, world No. 2 Novak Djokovic was scheduled to first take on Berdych, while Stepanek was due to face world No. 117 Dusan Lajovic, who has replaced the injured 36th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic.

However, Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic said he may call on Bozoljac for the fifth rubber.

“For sure Novak is going to play, but I’m going to talk to the guys tonight and we’ll make a decision” about the fifth rubber, he said.

Stepanek said he had no priority.

“I have to get ready for my rubber, for my performance, no matter who’s on the other side. The good thing is we didn’t waste too much energy today,” he said.

The Czechs dominated the doubles, being a more compact team from the start.

The 28-year-old Berdych served and returned well throughout, while the 34-year-old Stepanek — the world No. 9 for doubles — gave yet another spotless display at the net, delivering stunning volleys.

“I dare say this was maybe one of our best performances as a team,” Stepanek said.

Zimomjic added: “They were better in every aspect of the game, a really strong team, they’ve been playing together for many years and this is the reality. They were controlling the game from the beginning to the end.”

The two Czechs, who only play together in the Davis Cup, allowed just a single break point in the whole rubber midway through the third set.

The 37-year-old Zimonjic, world No. 14 for doubles, received the Davis Cup Award of Excellence before the match, but he showed only hints of his talent to the frantic home crowd.

Zimonjic lost the very first serve of the rubber and when Bozoljac, who is 28, followed suit in the seventh game, the Czechs won the first set 6-2 in just 30 minutes.

They took 40 minutes to win the second set — Zimonjic kept struggling with his serve, lost his first one again and that was all the Czechs needed to win 6-4.

The third set was the tightest as the Czechs cooled off a bit, while the Serbian pair showed the blend of skills that took them past the Bryan brothers in the Davis Cup quarter-finals in April.

Both pairs held on to their serves until a tie break in which the Czechs regained their dominance to win 7-6 (7/4).

Berdych said he was happy the team was “meeting the weekend plan” and that he and Stepanek will “do our best to sit here as winners.”

Against Djokovic, “I have nothing to lose, it’s a huge challenge for me to play him in front of his home crowd. I’m in the best possible position after Saturday,” Berdych said.

On Friday, Djokovic, the recently crowned ATP World Tour Finals champion, beat Stepanek, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4.

Seventh-ranked Berdych then put the Czechs level with a three-set win over Lajovic — 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 — on the hard court at the sold-out Belgrade Arena, which seats more than 15,000 people.

Besides Tipsarevic, Serbia are missing 76th-ranked Viktor Troicki, out over a doping ban.