ATP Tour

Czechs back trusty Berdych

Tomas Berdych (AFP)
Tomas Berdych (AFP)

Prague - The Czech Republic will bet on a time-tested successful team of Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych when they face Novak Djokovic-led Serbia in the Davis Cup finals on November 15-17.

Defending champions, the Czechs won their eighth Davis Cup tie in a row when they swept Argentina in the semi-finals in Prague, while 2010 champions Serbia, led by world number one Djokovic, saw off Canada.

The Czech Republic and Serbia last clashed in the 2012 quarterfinals, which the Czechs won 4-1 on their way to the victory.

Two years earlier, Serbia had beaten the Czechs in the semi-finals in Belgrade 3-2 to lift the trophy in the end too.

Against Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic, the Czechs will pit a duo that has a stunning record since teaming up in 2007.

Berdych, the world number five, and Stepanek, ranked 61st in singles and fifth in doubles, led the Czechs to their third final in five years at the weekend, having won the 13th of their 14 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together.

Experts praise their faithfulness to the team - unlike others, Berdych and Stepanek typically skip Davis Cup ties only when they are injured.

"Radek and Tomas are a great team, they have been doing great for five years and I hope we will take it to a successful end this year too," Czech team captain Jaroslav Navratil said.

"The away game will definitely be more difficult, we saw this in Belgrade three years ago. But we're not afraid, experience is on our side," he added.

"The opponents are incredibly strong, but if we focus on ourselves and stay in the best shape, there is a chance," said Berdych.

Still, Djokovic remains a concern given his record against the Czechs - 14-2 with Berdych, 8-1 with Stepanek.

"It's terribly hard to travel to Serbia with minus two points," said Navratil.

He added 23rd-ranked Tipsarevic might be easier to beat and "we could win two points against him."

In their home ties so far, the Czechs have relied on a superfast court at Prague's O2 Arena filled with thousands of frantic fans.

Now they know the surface will be different.

"Neither Tipsarevic nor their doubles players can play on clay. They will choose a hard surface but a slower one," Navratil said.

The crowd will be very different, too.

"It's one of the worst environments, those are not tennis fans, those are football fans, we have already seen that," said Navratil.

"We have to fight with that and the boys must close ranks and get ready so we could succeed," he added.

Famous for wild fist-pumping and determined self-motivation when playing for the Czech team, Stepanek said a victory was "realistic."

"We've been doing well and I believe we have one more step ahead of us to make things even nicer," he said.

"We would like to keep the trophy because it's beautiful."

World number one Djokovic won both his singles rubbers at the weekend to down Canada and believes home advantage in Belgrade will be crucial in the final.

"Winning the 2010 trophy was an inspiration to all of us to excel the following season on the ATP Tour and that's why the Davis Cup has a very special place in my heart," said Djokovic.

"I've won a number of Grand Slams but nothing compares to sharing the joy of victory with your team mates, who are there for you and cheer on every shot you take on the court in the Davis Cup."

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