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Davis Cup: The draw for the 2010 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas has been made in Geneva. Croatia faces Ecuador team of Lapentti.
Next tournament : Marin will not play in Asia before the Master of Shanghai.
In the seaside city of Porec in Croatia, it was an absolute marathon on the opening day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semi final tie between Croatia and the Czech Republic, two nations that have won this glorious championship once before. The Croats won it in 2005 and the Czechs in 1980.
After the opening day’s singles that saw a total of nine hours 47 minutes of tennis played, the Czech Republic has placed itself one match away from the final of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas
The day started with the amazing match between Radek Stepanekand Ivo Karlovic which Stepanek won to give the visitors the early lead. It then seemed like the Czechs were cruising to a quick 2-0 lead when Tomas Berdychlead Marin Cilic by two sets to love but the lanky Croat rallied and forced a fifth set.
Berdych hangs on
Berdych then seemed to get a second wind and he rolled through the final set to seal the victory 63 63 36 46 63 in three hours 48 minutes.
Berdych was buoyed by his team mate’s unbelievable effort to beat Karlovic and opened up what seemed like an overwhelming advantage against Marin Cilic who was coming off his best Grand Slam result by reaching the quarters of the US Open. The first two sets were soon over and the third was going with serve till Cilic realised he had to do something … and fast.
He put the pressure on Berdych and broke him and then closed out the set. The fourth see-sawed with service breaks and by now the crowd was once again well and truly in the zone with the atmosphere at fever pitch. Berdych levelled the set only to drop his serve in the ninth game and Cilic levelled the match.
The final set stayed tight but Berdych broke serve to lead 4-2 and hung on to consolidate the Czech lead.
Stepanek and Karlovic in thriller
Certainly without doubt the first match was the talking point and the most amazing of all the matches on day one of the various ties, semi final and play-off.
Stepanek and Karlovic had the crowd reaching fever pitch with their excitement. Not till the last point was played and won could anyone genuinely feel the match was in the bag. There were two service breaks in the first three games of the match and not another one happened till the 29th game of the fifth set. It was then that Stepanek, who had already saved four match points, got his chance and broke serve and served out the match in the next game.
“I was not letting my mind think it was match point; I just saw them as another point which I wanted to win,” said Stepanek. “When I sat down at the end I thought they were match points. Thinking that way in the match paid off. I knew patience would be very important.”
Two records broken
After five hours 59 minutes the Czechs were leading 67 76 76 67 1614. During that time Karlovic had broken records for aces that he already held. The Davis Cup record was 47 and the world record was 55 – he powered down a staggering 78. That record may never be broken.
The match was the fourth longest in time for Davis Cup and the 82 games made it the joint-longest in Davis Cup since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989.
“The crowd was amazing, we had a lot of fans and it was like playing at home,” said Stepanek. “I was very surprised. The Croatian fans were great as well. They gave the players lots of support and huge atmosphere. It was just an honour; that’s why we play tennis, because of fans like this.”
So down it’s to the crucial doubles rubber and it remains to be seen if the two captains will stick with their original tandems – Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko for Croatia and Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hernych for the Czech Republic.
The city of Porec in northern Croatia is playing host to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for the third time this year. In the first round the home side defeated Chile, in the quarterfinal they accounted for the USA in a nail-biting tie and now they are hoping the spirit of good luck will shine on them against the Czech Republic.
At the Davis Cup dinner on Wednesday night, which was a lively and fun-filled, the night before the draw ceremony, the two man band played a fantastic selection of music that had both teams having a blast. But when the Czech team got up to leave for the evening the lead singer of the band called out: “Czech team I tell you this is not a good idea to leave first. Chile and USA leave first from the dinner and both lost.”
With that Radek Stepanek took his coat back off and the guys sat down to applause and laughter.
At the draw the first name called out was that of Radek Stepanek, the No. 1 Czech player which meant that he would face the No. 2 Croat in the first match, Ivo Karlovic. Tomas Berdych who is celebrating his 24th birthday will play Marin Cilic, who is coming off a great run at the US Open which saw him reach the quarters.
The full draw is as follows:
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Marin Cilic (CRO) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Roko Karanusic/Lovro Zovko (CRO) v Lukas Dlouhy/Jan Hajek (CZE)
Marin Cilic (CRO) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
“It feels great to be in the semis but not satisfied because we’d like more,” said Stepanek. “We prepared as much as we could and we are looking forward to the tie. Playing Karlovic is always strange and tricky, you get no rhythm. You have few chances and you have to try and take them once they come because there are not many. There will not be much rallies so it’s important to focus all the time.”
Cilic suggested he didn’t want to be labelled as the leader of his side. He said both he and Karlovic are leaders.
“It’s my pleasure to play Davis Cup and to be the number one player but I am still young and wouldn’t want to put that weight on myself as being the leader. I don’t feel that way. We have a great team and giving our best in Davis Cup. I am going to enjoy this tie as the ones before.”
The doubles rubber on Saturday has Lukas Dlouhy who won the US Open doubles with Leander Paes, teams up with Jan Hajek against Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko. However, neither of the combinations remained confident that the nominated tandems would remain the same. The comment from the two sides was: “We will see, maybe we will play.”
The final day’s reverse singles puts the two number ones opposite one another, Cilic against Stepanek and closing out the weekend it’s Karlovic against Berdych. The tie is being played on an indoor clay court at the Sportska dvorana "Zatika", a venue that is only ten months old and sort of looks like a multi-layered igloo.
The tie between the Croatia and the Czech Republic is the first between the two nations but both nations are Davis Cup champions – the Czechs won it in 1980 with Ivan Lendl leading them (he has said that he will be at the final this year if the Czechs make it), while the Croats did it in 2005 with Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic at the helm.
This year marks the second time Croatia has reached the semis while the Czech Republic last made the final four in 1996.
“We are happy and looking forward to being in the semi finals after four years and we have chances to take the step forward but I feel the Czechs are the favourites,” said Croatian captain Goran Prpic. “They are better ranked than our players and I watched them practice and Berdych is playing like a top five player, I don’t know why he’s not top five.”
Jarolsav Navratil smiled when he was told that but wasn’t going to be so forward and suggest the same. He said they were proud to be in the semis after 13 years.
“It’s difficult to say, we are not playing at home so I think the chances are 50-50” said Navratil. “For the first day I am happy that Radek plays first because he may play all three days.”
This Monday September 14th the Croatian Davis Cup representation held a press conference in the tent that has been mounted in front of the sports hall. Due to the great interest of the press for this event, the press area has been extended to the press conference room in sports hall, while all the Davis Cup press conferences will be held in the above mentioned tent.
“The city of Poreč has been an excellent host during the previous two Davis Cup ties, and they helped us make it into the semifinals” Prpić told the press. Members of the Croatian representation Marin Čilić, Ivo Karlović, Roko Karanušić, Lovro Zovko, Antonio Vejić, and Ivan Dodig were also present at the press conference. The Croatian captain added that the representation will seize their opportunity in the upcoming tie with the Czech representation and a said that the players had their first practiced this Sunday. “The surface is excellent, and according to our wishes, and when it comes to the tie our chances are the same as in the tie against the USA as we can win or loose all four matches” said Prpić.
Marin Čilić was asked how the change in the time zone and surface and the good result at the US Open have affected him, and what can we expect form this semifinal tie. “I feel good, about the US Open I am very satisfied with how I played. I came to Poreč prepared, I will keep practicing during the following few days, and I believe everything is going to be all right. I am looking forward to the match, and it is also important that everyone in the team is has a very positive attitude” said Čilić. “When we are talking about the rankings Czech players are in a better position, but the quality of the players is equal. We are not running away from the responsibility, but we will use the chance we get” concluded the Croatian captain.