|Posted on July 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM|
Tomas Berdych celebrates with his team his victory on Juan Monaco of Argentina at the end of their
Davis cup quarterfinal match Czech Republic vs Argentina on July 10, 2009 at the Ostrava's Cez Arena.
Berdych won 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
From official website Davis Cup
All square in Ostrava
Tomas Berdych needed to stand tall, every inch of his 6ft 5in frame to justify the Czech Republic's position as favourites to win their BNP Paribas quarter-final against Argentina in Ostrava.
That the tie by the end of the opening day stood 1-1 was no surprise, but it could easily have been so very different. Two sets to one down against Juan Monaco, the home nation were heading for an unscheduled setback in the opening rubber when Berdych suddenly started playing like the huge talent he is to pull off a 64 26 26 63 62 win in three hours and 27 minutes.
After that, even Juan Martin Del Potro's match against the world No. 64 Ivo Minar Radek Stepanek, was no longer quite the foregone conclusion it once seemed; in Davis Cup there is no such thing as a certainty.
As it happened, the world No. 5 played up to form and won without fuss 61 63 63. At least Minar, who has spent most of this year playing at Challenger level, kept Del Potro waiting because the Argentine had two match points at 5-1.
Tie nicely poised
It means the tie is nicely-balanced going into the doubles, which is scheduled to see Berdych and Del Potro, two of the young giants of the modern game, in opposition. However, fans at the CEZ Arena may have to wait until the reverse singles on Sunday to see that because the word is that Jose Acasuso, rather than Del Potro, will partner Leonardo Mayer against the formidable Czech pairing of Berdych and Stepanek.
The latter is thought to be fit enough to play doubles if not singles - he and Berdych are unbeaten as a pair in six Davis Cup ties - although if it all comes down to a fifth rubber Tito Vazquez, the Argentina captain, has no doubt we will see a major player, Stepanek rather than Minar, lining up against Monaco.
Apparently, Berdych found the inspiration for his comeback during a toilet break after the third set of his match with Monaco, by which time he could have been going back to the locker room for good because, as he admitted, he didn't know how he managed to win the first set. For more than two hours he had struggled with his game, particularly his forehand which was more a liability than the weapon it usually is. On top of that, his first serve percentage was desperately short of what was required.
Toilet break was the inspiration
"My game is based on the first serve and I then get a lot of pressure on the other guy - running side to side is not my game - but it completely didn't work today, well, at least not for the first three sets," he said. "So I just went to the locker - to the toilet - took some time and finally it worked. I came to the court and somehow I found some different energy from my body and everything was fine and the rhythm was back."
Berdych's powerful all-court game was expected to be too much for a clay-court specialist like Monaco. But the Argentine has proved himself a useful competitor on hard courts and gave the world No. 3 Andy Murray a hard time in the Miami Masters in March this year before narrowly losing. He possesses great stickability and coupled with Berdych's error-prone game it made for an uncomfortable time for the 23-year-old. Tennis courts are lonely places in such situations, but Berdych showed great resolve to steady his nerve and pull the match around.
Vazquez - 'So close and yet so far'
Vazquez felt the turning point was when Monaco was 1-2 down and serving. "I remember saying when Monaco was 2-1 down in the fourth set and serving, "If he holds serve we might win," said the Argentina captain. "Then he made a couple of double faults and after that it was a different match. Like you in England say, 'So close and yet so far'."
It was a match littered with breaks of serve but the one that mattered most was the one that put Berdych 2-1 up in the final set. When he dived to intercept a Monaco passing shot to win a point in the next game on his way to consolidating the break, the sense of expectation in the Czech camp was tangible - and well worth the burn to his arm he received from the unforgiving Taraflex surface.
Even then there was a hint that this match might carry a sting in its tail when at 2-5 Monaco saved three match points and forced a break point of his own thanks to a Berdych double-fault. But a forehand winner, of all things, from the big man finally clinched the match.