Tipsarevic digs deep to keep Serbian hopes alive

Czech Republic are looking for revenge over Serbia this weekend in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal showdown in Prague.

Janko Tipsarevic had to dig deep to keep Serbian hopes alive in Prague as he outlasted Radek Stepanek to win an epic 5 hour battle 57 64 64 46 97 after Tomas Berdych had earlier put the home nation ahead.

Having led by a break in the first set Tipsarevic was then stunned by a Stepanek fightback but put the dissapointment behind him to win the next two sets and put himself on the brink of victory. He lost concerntration at the end of the fourth, however, and gave the Czech No.2 a chance to level the score.
In the fifth and decisive set Tipsarevic once again let a break slip early on and then had to save three match points before clinching the vital break with the score a 7-7 and comfortably serving it out to give Serbia the momentum going into tomorrow’s doubles.

Overall Tipsarevic and Stepanek had played each other three times with the Serb holding a 2-1 advantage but they had not played since a painful Davis Cup semifinal battle in 2010. However, the Czech won their only encounter on clay, at 2009 Barcelona.

In the first rubber, Serbia’s hope that Viktor Troicki would suddenly somehow rediscover his form of two years ago when this young tennis nation achieved the remarkable feat of winning its first Davis Cup trophy did not materialise.
Indeed Troicki did not even manage to extend the world No. 7 Tomas Berdych, who won comfortably 62 61 62 in just one hour 49 minutes, to put Czech Republic nicely on their way to avenging their semifinal defeat of that same year.
With the huge crowd at the O2 Arena in Prague at his back like a strong wind, Berdych sailed into a 4-0 lead in the first set and from that point never looked back. Troicki wasn’t helped any in those formative stages of the match by numerous double faults, including one on the very first point of the match.

The choice of clay looked a good one as Berdych’s big game proved almost as damaging as it does on a hard court – he hit 44 winners, three times as many as Troicki.

It was obvious from the start that Troicki was allowing outside influences to affect his game as he complained about crowd noise and once even the pressure of the balls. Meanwhile, Berdych went steadily about his business taking an early command of the both the first two sets.

Even when his first serve momentarily faltered in the first set the Czech No. 1 still managed to control the match, winning 79 per cent of points on his second serve compared to Troicki’s 33 per cent.

Almost inevitably victory was clinched on Troicki’s serve with a backhand return winner, whereupon Berdych high-fived it the length of the Czech bench as the home nation dreamed of a quick-fire victory. Tipsarevic, the new world No. 8, may have something to say about that in the second rubber against Stepanek.

Serbia’s win over Czech Republic was the only clash these nations have had since Serbia became an independent nation in 2007. However, if you include Serbia’s history as part of Yugoslavia and Czech Republic with Czechoslovakia then the nations would be poised at five wins apiece.

This tie is seen as the tightest encounter of the weekend and much will depend on the results of the opening day. History shows that Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil is always ready to substutite his nominated doubles team for his star singles players and not without good reason.

Berdych and Stepanek have successfully combined to win nine out of 10 matches played. Even the doubles is hard to call, though, as Serbia has world No. 9 doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic on its side. He has been a Davis Cup stalwart since his debut in 1995.