From Spain’s nearly routine home win and the United States surprising France on the Monte Carlo clay, to relating at length today the agony and the joy of those following the Argentina vs Croatia tie, leaving no room for the last one. The Davis Cup tie between the Czech Republic and Serbia was also a dramatic tie, although not with the same kind of drama that surrounded that taking place in Argentina.
Czech Republic 4, Serbia 1
As these matches were usually at the same time as the Drama of Parque Roca, I admit I haven’t seen much of this tie, held in Prague. In my preview, I wrote about the unpredictability of both of the Czech Republic’s singles players, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, forgetting that the latter is some sort of Davis Cup warrior, often neglected but often the one to get into tight four or five-set battles.
There was no unpredictability in Tomas Berdych on Friday, as he easily took the measure of the still-slumping Viktor Troicki, 6-2 6-1 6-2, one of the easiest wins of the Czech over a top 50 opponent in a bit.
The second match, opposing Radek Stepanek to Janko Tipsarevic, was really the one that set the dramatic tone of the tie. The match was a tight and emotional 5:09 battle, won 5-7 6-4 6-4 4-6 9-7 by World no 8 Tipsarevic, who saved four match points in the process.
It’s what came at the end of the match that was cause for drama, as Stepanek shook Tpisarevic’s hand presenting him his middle finger bent, a gesture which, in Eastern European countries, is seen as an insult. Tipsarevic had to be held by the Serbian captain to prevent him from going at Stepanek. Apparently (although that is just hearsay), Stepanek also uttered some insults towards his opponent.
We know that Stepanek is a hot-head and can do rather abhorring things in the heat of the moment (although Tipsarevic is no angel either). The problem, however, is that the Serbians kept him so deep a grudge that it made them lose their focus for the rest of the tie.
Berdych and Stepanek were finally sent on court instead of Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Rosol, which didn’t come as a surprise, considering how badly the Czechs wanted the pivotal doubles rubber. They did not waste much time in giving their country a 2-1 lead, defeating Ilja Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjjic in straight sets, 6-4 6-2 7-6(4), with Bozoljac refusing to shake Stepanek’s hand at the end of the match in retaliation for what had been done the night before, and both Serbian players adding oil to the fire in press conference.
It’s in this very tense atmosphere that Tipsarevic went to play a decisive fourth rubber on Sunday. Facing fellow top-tenner Tomas Berdych, he gave all he could, only to see Berdych winning a heartbreaker of a match, 7-6(6) 7-6(6) 7-6(7), a match in which Tipsarevic often had the break advantage, only to relinquish it and ending up losing a very tough one.
With this win, the Czechs were sent to the semi-finals, and their winning celebration was… rather peculiar:
Lukas Rosol sealed the 4-1 win of the home team with a 7-6(5) 7-5 triumph over Troicki.
The Czech Republic will meet Argentina in the semi-finals and I can wager that antics such as those displayed by Stepanek won’t happen in this tie, or that they won’t overly bother the hot-blooded Argentines to the point of losing focus for the rest of the tie if they do. The situation got really out of control and that’s a shame, not only on Stepanek’s side (he should have owned up to his actions), but on all sides involved.
World Group playoffs
In September, at the same time as the World Group semi-finals (Spain vs United States and Argentina vs Czech Republic) will be held the World Group playoffs. Over the weekend, these countries have qualified to take part in them:
- Australia (d. Korea 5-0)
- Belgium (d. Great Britain 4-1)
- Brazil (d. Colombia 4-1)
- Chile (d. Uruguay 3-1)
- Israel (d. Portugal 3-2)
- Netherlands (d. Romania 5-0)
- South Africa (d. Slovenia 4-1)
- Uzbekistan (d. India 3-2)
The ties will oppose one of the following seeded nations:
to one of these unseeded nations:
- South Africa
The draw will take place on Wednesday morning and I will, of course, give you the detailed composition of each of the playoff ties.