Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 11th 2013 Contents A49
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PRAGUE---With Argentina missing lead-
ing player Juan Martin del Potro, defending
champion Czech Republic has high hopes
of winning their Davis Cup semifinal this
weekend and reaching the final for a third
time in five years.
Also bolstering the Czechs confidence
is the reunion of Tomas Berdych and Radek
Stepanek for the first time this year. More-
over, both have been in good form recent-
ly.Berdych climbed to his career-highest
world No 5 place in August while Stepanek
won the US Open doubles together with
Leander Paes of India, a huge confidence
boost for the 34-year-old veteran who had
to undergo a neck operation earlier this year.
"We re the favourite," Berdych said. "We
play at home, we play on the surface which
we like. We have our home crowd which
helps us a lot and we have the strongest
team possible. For us the goal is to make
Berdych, who lost to Stanislas Wawrinka
in the US Open s fourth round, missed the
3-1 quarterfinal victory at Kazakhstan due
to an injury, while Stepanek was not available
for the first-round 3-2 victory in Switzer-
Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely are also on
the team but unlikely to play if Berdych
and Stepanek remain fit.
They played all five rubbers in last year s
final in Prague, beating Spain 3-2 to give
their country its first Davis Cup title as an
Stepanek clinched the title with a 6-4,
7-6 (0), 3-6, 6-3 upset victory over Nicolas
Almagro in the last reverse singles.
"I m 100 per cent fit and ready to play
all three days," said Stepanek who only
returned from New York City on Monday.
But even without the absent del Potro,
Argentina won t be a pushover. Led by Juan
Monaco, the team reached the semifinals
for the fourth consecutive year, thrashing
Germany 5-0 in the first round before over-
coming nine-time champion France 3-2 in
"We have chances for sure," Argentine
captain Martin Jaite said with confidence.
"Davis Cup is always difficult competi-
tion. We ve come here to win. So we re
working very hard to try to beat the Czechs
and go to the finals," Jaite said. Argentina
has never won the Davis Cup.
Carlos Berlocq, Horacio Zeballos and
Leonardo Mayer will play alongside Monaco,
the highest ranked Argentine at No. 30.
Del Potro skipped the Davis Cup this
The Czech Republic won its last two
encounters with Argentina, handing the
South Americans particularly bitter 3-2
defeat in last year s semis in Buenos Aires
In the second opening singles match,
Monaco took a 2-1 lead before Berdych ral-
lied to win.
With plenty of support from a capacity
crowd of more than 13,000, who will see
their team for the first time since last year s
triumph, the Czechs have another advan-
tage. As in the final against Spain, they
elected to play the series on their favorite
fast surface to counter Argentina s clay court
Monaco said he would like to emulate
the success of his friend Rafael Nadal, having
watched his US Open victory over Novak
Djokovic on television in Prague.
"It was a match of high intensity. I was
happy for him. He really deserved to win,"
"If you re close to him, you learn things
all the time. Every day, you can learn some-
Czechs to cash in on del Potro-less Argentina
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