|Posted on March 7, 2010 at 1:12 PM|
Sunday, 7 March 2010 Tomas takes pictures from the bench
06 Mar 2010 - Bree, Belgium - BEL v CZE - Eli Weinstein
Berdych and Stepanek outclass Belgium
When the Belgians drew the Czech Republic as their 2010 first round opponent in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, they immediately knew it was not going to be simple. Sure enough, the task turned out to be complicated, to say the least. In fact, the more accurate task description that comes to mind is more along the lines of ‘impossible’. In the entire tie, there was never a moment when the host nation seemed to snatch a chance, a solution or even a window of opportunity, let alone a single set or a match.
Czechs dominate weekend
The contrast between the two teams couldn’t have been starker. At times, the courtside feeling was akin to watching juniors facing pros.
Yet the Belgians were not really to blame, as they never really fumbled their tennis. Playing for their country never seemed to be a problem, unlike for other Davis Cup players who’ve often found themselves unable to release their arm, knowing it was carrying an entire nation.
No, the real reason for the almost insulting Czech dominance was entirely due to the full-fire power of the Stepanek-Berdych two-man band. It was a relentless performance, which both players kept up from beginning to end.
In the first singles match, Berdych overpowered Olivier Rochus in a major way, breaking him in every set opener and forcing him to routinely be trailing by at least one break. Rochus’s grunts contrasted drastically with Berdych’s nonchalance, easily mistaken at times for a laidback attitude.
In Stepanek’s case it was just another day at the office. Squared off against Malisse, to whom he had lost only three weeks earlier in San Jose, the Czech played (as he put it himself) “very clever tennis, varying the spins,” and keeping his opponent guessing at all times. Malisse enjoyed a glimpse of a chance in the second and third sets when he had breaks in his favour, but the 87th player in the world was unable to consolidate in both cases.
On Saturday, the Rochus-Darcis pairing was able to hold its own in the first set, but after a tiebreaker in which they did not score a single point, it was all downhill. Berdych and Stepanek, on the other hand, were zoning and having trouble missing. The Czechs were also quick to spot the Belgian weaker link, in this case Olivier Rochus, whom they broke three times and on whom they concentrated their play. The Czech Republic ended up rising to the quarterfinals without dropping a single set in the first three rubbers - an impressive display by the fourth team in the ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking.
Czechs await quarterfinal foe
Captain Jaroslav Navratil’s men will play next on 9 July. In order to repeat last year’s runner-up performance or even better it, the Czechs will need to get past this next hurdle, and will either host Israel for a home quarterfinal, or travel to Chile to take on Fernando Gonzalez and co. in what promises to be a far more heated atmosphere than this weekend in Bree.
Reginald Willems and his crew will have a little more time on their hands to recover from this week’s defeat, since Belgium makes its Davis Cup return for its crucial World Group Play-off tie in September. Only on 11 May will the Belgians find out whom and where they play for their survival amongst the elite. A draw for which they hope to have a little more luck than the previous one.