x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Davis Cup title defence in balance for Czech Republic

Doubles pair put defending champions one match away from victory

Tomas Berdych, right, and Radek Stepanek embrace after winning their doubles match on Saturday to put the Czech Republic 2-1 up on Serbia in the Davis Cup final. Marko Djurica / Reuters
Tomas Berdych, right, and Radek Stepanek embrace after winning their doubles match on Saturday to put the Czech Republic 2-1 up on Serbia in the Davis Cup final. Marko Djurica / Reuters

BELGRADE // The Czech Republic are within a point of defending the Davis Cup title after 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 match together as they swept the hosts 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead over 2010 champions Serbia.

In Sunday’s reverse singles, world No 2 Novak Djokovic will first take on Berdych and Stepanek is due to face Dusan Lajovic, the world No 117 who has replaced the injured Janko Tipsarevic.

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

“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.

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

Berdych, 28, served and returned well throughout while Stepanek, 34, 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 agreed, saying: “They were better in every aspect, 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 match midway through the third set.

Zimonjic, 37, the world No 14 for doubles, received the Davis Cup Award of Excellence before the match but showed only hints of his talent to the fervent home crowd.

“Today they dealt with pressure better than we did. They won almost every important point in the match,” Bozoljac said.

Besides Tipsarevic, Serbia are missing 76th-ranked Viktor Troicki because of his doping ban.

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