|Posted on November 13, 2013 at 3:35 PM|
13 November 2013
Berdych prepared for a champion’s shift
BELGRADE, SERBIA: Tomas Berdych will arguably have to pull off the biggest win of his life if he is to put Czech Republic in the ascendancy during this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final against Serbia in Belgrade.
The world No. 7 has defeated Novak Djokovic just twice in 16 previous encounters and has never mastered the Serb on a hard court, let alone under a roof or on the Serb’s home patch. It the statistics don’t already firmly favour Djokovic, Berdych faces a player in scintillating form and riding a 22-match winning streak.
“This is the toughest [match-up of the weekend],” said Berdych. “Novak is going to play at home. He’s going to play on the surface that he has chosen in the conditions that he loves the most. It’s not going to be easy at all. But we are in a position that this is not a single tournament – we have five matches to try to score 3 points. Basically every match is very important but if we don’t win some of them we still just need three points – we don’t need all of them.”
While the odds are stacked against him in the face of the world No. 2, a defeat to Djokovic certainly wouldn’t spell the end of Czech hopes in the tie. The defending champion can call on the most successful Davis Cup doubles partnership in Czech history on the middle Saturday, with Berdych and Radek Stepanek seeking their 14th win in 15 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together.
“That’s definitely the most important point,” Berdych said of the doubles rubber. “It’s been one of the most important points that we’ve earned in many ties in the past and there will be no exception this time.”
Berdych and Stepanek’s only defeat together in Davis Cup came against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco on clay in the 2009 Davis Cup Final. And why have they been so dominant together?
“Well, the results can talk about that,” Berdych said. “We have only lost just one match in 14. We’re going to try and continue with that. We both know each other well on court. That’s why the results are great. We are both great singles players. We have many experiences in doubles, especially in Davis Cup, so I think these are the positive things that can help us to go through again.”
The Czech team's preparation was disrupted by the news that regular captain Jaroslav Navratil was admitted to hospital with a pulmonary embolism, but stand-in captain Vladimir Safarik had positive news at the pre-draw press conference on Wednesday and insisted the absence of Navratil would not affect their chances of victory this weekend.
“Jaroslav Navratil was released from the hospital today. He’s in a good condition and he’s getting better,” said Safarik, who acknowledged that he is treading new ground as captain this weekend. “It’s completely different for me. I was always in the office or behind the bench so this is something new.
"I’m happy to be here as a captain of course. I will support the team, I will protect the team but on the other hand I need the support from them. It’s a job we have to do together and it’s an honour for me to be here.
“We will fight really hard this weekend and we will do our best,” he continued. “I’m proud of my team. We are defending champion and we want to do everything possible to have the trophy back at home.”