|Posted on September 19, 2009 at 2:37 PM|
Davis Cup site - Sept 19, 2009
Radek and Tomas 'Czech' into final
The Zatika Arena was reminiscent of a heavy metal rock concert. The cheering, chanting, and jumping up and down courtside would have been more at home at a Pearl Jam performance. An entire section of men with all body shapes removed their shirts and started to swing them in the air while singing. They were celebrating. Their nation, Czech Republic, had just defeated Croatia to qualify for the final of the 2009 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
The Czechs became the first of the finalists after Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek accounted for Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko. Berdych and Stepanek have achieved an honour that their nation has enjoyed just twice before in the 76 years the Czechs have been part of Davis Cup. In 1975, Czechoslovakia was runner-up to Sweden and then in 1980, led by Ivan Lendl, they beat Italy to win the title.
Berdych and Stepanek showed no ill effects of their long five set matches in the singles on the opening day. They came in as the substitutes for US Open doubles champion Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hernych, and defeated Marin Cilic, who took the place of Roko Karanusic, and Lovro Zovko 61 63 64 in 2hr 16min.
The Czechs came out with all guns blazing in the doubles. Berdych and Stepanek wasted no time in breaking the Croats -- in fact they broke serve three times in the set to close things out. Zovko was the weak link of the Croat team as he was broken again in the fourth game of the second set.
Berdych continued to produce the goods with his serve just as he had done the day before in the singles. He was unhindered when he served for the second set and closed it out comfortably.
At the start of the third set play was interrupted for 15 minutes when a bank of lights in the arena went out. As one person commented: "Play is suspended due to darkness." That is something you would normally hear at Wimbledon rather than at in indoor venue. The lighting returned and Berdych and Stepanek kept things going at a steady pace.
Both teams were holding serve but in the vital seventh game Cilic put a smash into the net while break point down. That was the advantage the visitors needed and they were next to flawless after that.
They held two match points on Cilic's serve which the Croats bravely saved. However, a game later with Berdych serving, the Czechs clinched it on match point four when Stepanek, who was at the net, received a sitter of a smash which was put away. He later said as soon as he hit the ball he knew the tie was theirs.
Berdych slowly turned; the smile on his face was from ear to ear as Stepanek threw his arms up and screamed. The stadium erupted and the celebrations had begun.
Czech Republic reached the final of the Davis Cup for the first time when they forged
an unassailable 3-0 lead against Croatia in Porec.
They've done it!
The noisy Czech supporters gave the pair plenty of support and not even two delays caused by power cuts could spoil the atmosphere in the Zatika Arena.
Both Stepanek and Berdych showed little sign of the marathon matches they endured less than 24 hours earlier, when they came through five-set matches.
The former Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup in 1980 but it is the first time the Czech Republic team has reached the final.
The the victory now in the bag, Navratil is expected to rest his heroes and give Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hernych a run out.
"This is an unbelievable success for our country, we made it to the final after 29 years
and I am exceptionally proud of our players who put up a great performance in all three matches"
said captain Jaroslav Navratil.