|Posted on July 9, 2009 at 6:00 PM|
Argentinian tennis player Juan Monaco (R) shakes hands with Czech National tennis player Tomas Berdych (L)after the draw for their Davis quarterfinal match at Ostrava's Town Hall on July 9, 2009, in North Moravia
The draw ceremony
Berdych opens against Monaco
Argentina will face a weakened Czech Republic in this weekend's Davis Cup quarterfinals after Radek Stepanek was ruled out of the opening singles due to a knee injury he suffered at Wimbledon last week.
Stepanek was eliminated in Wimbledon's fourth round by 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in five sets 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 and complained of problems with a thigh muscle and a knee.
He still was not fit enough to play Friday's opening singles when the Czech team was announced Thursday during a draw ceremony in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, though he was picked for the doubles.
"The problem is that I still feel a pain in my knee and that limits my game," Stepanek said.
"I wouldn't be able to play at 100 percent," he said. "We'll do all we can for me to be fit on Saturday."
Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil has not given up on Stepanek being in good enough shape to play the reverse singles, saying: "It would be great if Radek could play (also) on Sunday."
World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, who leads the Argentine team, said the visitors were taken by surprise by Stepanek's withdrawal.
"It's a surprise for us but they have other good players," said del Potro, who returned to the team after skipping the first round 5-0 win over the Netherlands.
Argentina, last year's Davis Cup runner up, will be seeking to reach its sixth semifinal in the last eight years while the Czechs, who upset France 3-2 in the first round, last reached the semis in 1996.
Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic opens the tie against Juan Monaco on Friday in the opening singles before del Potro takes on Ivo Minar.
It will be only the second Davis Cup match for Minar who lost to Andy Roddick of the United States in the first round series in 2007 in Ostrava on clay.
"He's the favorite," Minar said. "I can only surprise him,"
A cautious Del Potro said of his 64th-ranked opponent: "Minar's very good on this surface. It will be difficult."
The Czechs have chosen a synthetic carpet called Taraflex because their two best players, Berdych and Stepanek prefer fast surfaces. The Argentine players are better on the slower clay surface.
"You have less opportunities on the surface and you have to take them," said del Potro, who will seek to improve his 4-2 Davis Cup record.
Argentina has to do without the 16th-ranked David Nalbandian, who is recovering from hip surgery that forced him to miss Wimbledon and ruled him out of the U.S. Open.
Berdych, ranked 20th, beat Monaco at the 2008 Australian Open 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in their only previous encounter.
"I can't underestimate him," Berdych said. "It won't be easy. I have to prepare well and play my best game."
Lukas Dlouhy, who won the men's doubles at the French Open with Leander Paes last month, is due to team up with Stepanek in Saturday's doubles to face del Potro and Leonardo Mayer.
The reverse singles on Sunday tentatively pit Berdych against del Potro and Minar against Monaco.
"He's got excellent serve that puts you under pressure," Berdych said of del Potro. "He plays aggressively and makes hardly any mistakes. He may not like the surface but he's an excellent player and will be ready."
The two countries only met once in 2005, with Argentina winning 5-0.
The winner of the best-of-five series will face the United States or Croatia in the Sept 18-20 semis.
Czech Republic and Argentina teams