There were a lot of emotions in Parque Roca on Friday, during the first day of the semi-final tie opposing Argentina to Czech Republic. After all the uncertainty surrounding the presence of Argentina’s n° 1 player, Juan Martín del Potro, suffering from a left wrist injury, and his confirmation that he would play “for the people”, against the recommendation of his doctor and his close ones, we knew we were in for very emotional moments.
We were not wrong.
On Thursday, after the draw, there have been various rumours that Radek Stepanek would not play the first rubber, against del Potro. Finally, on Friday morning, it was quickly confirmed that Stepanek would, indeed, play, and he said after the match, with his usual class (pardon the sarcasm), that he wanted to use this first rubber as a warm-up for today’s doubles (as we all know that Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol are only the Czech doubles team on paper).
Nevertheless, for a “warm-up”, Stepanek gave everything he had to try and win the first point for the Czech Republic, only to hit a inspired wall. Del Potro, playing with the help of injections in his left wrist, gave his all to secure the first point for Argentina with a 6-4 6-4 6-2 win.
It was a difficult win for Delpo, because of the injury (of which Stepanek also said to doubt the veracity), and we could see the measure of it when he burst into tears during his on-court interview, after the match, trying to thank the crowd for its continued support:
Tough loss for Mónaco
The second rubber was really a roller-coaster, both in game and in emotions. Tomas Berdych, ranked sixth in the world, was facing World n° 12 Juan Mónaco, to whom he had never lost. After the first set, it seemed clear that it would be no different this time, as he took it, 6-1.
However, it was without counting on Mónaco’s resilience, and the Argentine took an early break in the second, only to lose it right away. In fact, there have been seven breaks of serve in the second set only, the last one winning the set for Argentina, 6-4.
Mónaco really raised his game from then on, and took advantage of a serious drop of level from the Czech to take the third set, 6-1, and a break lead in the fourth. However, the hopes of Argentina to end up the day with a 2-0 lead ended in the middle of the fourth set, when Tomas Berdych found his game once more, broke back, and then went not only to win the set, 6-4, but to quickly take a double break lead in the fifth.
In fact, including the game where he was broken back, Pico lost four straight service games before breaking to get on the board in the decisive set. Getting back on serve as Berdych was serving for the match, in the end, Mónaco, completely empty, ended up surrendering his serve at 4-5, sealing the Czech’s 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-4 6-4 win in 4:02.
Elation from the Czechs, but a hear-breaker for Argentina, who really came close of achieving the near-impossible of taking a 2-0 lead in the tie.
The doubles, we know it, are very important in the Davis Cup. It will be no different in this tie, as both teams will want to give their country the advantage entering Sunday’s reverse singles.
If we are quite certain that Jaroslav Navratil will go with Berdych and Stepanek, as he usually does, Martín Jaite goes with a doubles team that hasn’t played together in nearly a year, but who had some success when they did, winning an ATP title and a Challenger title together in the past, Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank.
It is a dream come true for the 29-year-old from Chascomus, who will finally make his Davis Cup debut. And in what way! Berlocq will start his Davis Cup career in a critical rubber, against a team that has won many such rubbers in the past.
It is a tough ask for the Argentine team, but knowing both Berlocq and Schwank, I am sure they will give their all to try and clinch that rubber for their country.
Nothing is so sure, however, but the support of the crowd will be vital to the pair, and I’m sure they will count on it.