Friday, September 13, 2013

Davis Cup Semifinal - Day 1

(AP Photo)
And welcome to the worst case scenario: After the first day the Argentine team finds itself uncomfortably close to defeat.

First Radek Stepanek beat Pico 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2.
And then Tomas Berdych beat Leo 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

So after the first day the Czechs lead 2-0.

(AP Photo)

What's left of Argentina's hopes now rests on the shoulders of Charly and Horacio while Berdych and Stepanek will try to make short work of the Argentine team - all of that in tomorrow's doubles rubber. Also known as the match that David wanted to play.

(Adrián Quiroga/Cancha Llena)
Welcome to Prague and to the first day of the Davis Cup semifinal between the Czech Republic, the defending champion, and Argentina - without David. Perhaps it's not really surprising that in the end, four months were not enough time to recover from the double surgery he had in May. But whether there's any chance for him of making an appearance in this year's final, that's going depend on Pico, Leo, Charly and Horacio, and what they can do in this weekend's semifinal tie.

Against Czech Davis Cup heroes Berdych and Stepanek, against the crowd at the O2 Arena and also against, or in spite of, the fast and low-bouncing surface. 'Enthusiasm, belief and the will to win - that's the mantra repeated by the players' as an Argentine journalist described it. They are the underdogs but it's not the first time this year and so far, they always managed to pull off the upset.
So here's what's ahead on the first day of play, today:

(AP Photo)
Radek Stepanek vs Juan Monaco
After the draw yesterday Pico put in extra training - at the net. Jaite admitted that Stepanek's nomination came as a surprise, they had expected Lukas Rosol. But while "against Rosol we wouldn't have known what kind of match he'd play we know exactly what's ahead with Stepanek..." to quote the captain (source).
And that's attacking, "old-school" tennis. A difficult match-up for Pico, who won't get the rhythm he likes. And Stepanek will be full of confidence after his US Open doubles title.

(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)
Tomas Berdych vs Leonardo Mayer
It's a somewhat unusual track record that Leo has in Davis Cup: He has never played at the Parque Roca before but this weekend he's contesting his fourth away tie. In the past, there were times when Leo didn't feel up to playing Davis Cup and his career has also been hampered by chronic back problems. But now he is ready, as well as "happy" and "grateful" that Jaite made him #2.
Leo's ambitious game plan for the match: "attacking him before he gets the chance to attack me" (source). But it won't be easy to execute against Berdych.

The last words ahead of the tie I'll leave to Martin Jaite:
The pressure is on them, they are playing at home, they are the defending champions and they chose the surface. We have nothing to lose but a lot to win.
I hope we can spoil their little party.

P.S. No jacket bearing the name Nalbandian in the Argentine locker room, this time...

(Charly Berlocq)


  1. For me Fede delbonis could have been a better choice for singels against Berdych. in spite of the fact that he doesnt have a good indoor record. He had a nice summer beating top players and he also have better rankings. But the captain knows it better thats for sure.

  2. I think the fast surface probably did count against him too much - he's very much a claycourt player. I suppose he's young enough to have a good chance of improving on faster courts and I do think he could be a good one for Argentina for the future. Maybe when David is DC captain! I do actually think he's likely to play for the team by next year.

    Having David and Delpo has meant that Argentina has had the extra benefit (on top of them being class players, of course) of having players that excel on faster surfaces, as well as the more traditional clay experts. Without them, there's a weakness that opposing teams can target when it's their choice of ground. This could continue to be a problem for the future. Argentina does seem to have quite a good stock of young players on the rise, but does anyone know if any of them like it off the clay?

  3. Yep, Delbonis is a claycourter, who has never won an ATP-level match on hardcourt and who has zero experience in Davis Cup. Leo took a set off Berdych. Delbonis would've been lucky to get a handful of games.
    As for hardcourt lovers among Argentina's next generation - no idea. Whenever I see them play somewhere (and get somehwere) it's on clay.

  4. I saw Delbo play live at Roland Garros this year and was impressed. He put up a good fight against Youzhny (2nd round). I've never seen him on a hard court, but less than two weeks later I watched him again, on grass at Queen's, where he lost in about five minutes (slight exaggeration) to Kudla. I believe he was the first player to exit the tournament.

    It hardly looked like the same player. Although to be fair, it was the first match of the week on his particular court, and at Queen's it's notoriously slippery early on. I've seen David do a few slips and slides there too. And I don't know if Delbo had ever played on grass before. I assume he was planning to play at Wimbledon (probably qualies) otherwise why play Queen's, but I think the experience put him off grass for good. ;) Still, no reason why he shouldn't play a lot more and improve on hard courts, now he can get into the higher level events.

    Although, having said that...
    It will be interesting to see if he can sustain his ranking. I think the bias towards clay events in the Challengers has enabled some players to get into the top 100 by that route, but often they seem to be out of their depth once playing ATP-level events. Sometimes they just can't sustain it, and they settle back into Challengers where they can play almost exclusively on clay. I think the genuine top 100 players are the ones who have a bit more surface versatility.

    I do hope Delbonis is one who can prove himself at the higher level.