The Czech Republic seized a 2-1 advantage in the 2013 Davis Cup Final on Saturday after Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek defeated Serbia's Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Berdych and Stepanek's straight-sets triumph in Serbia's Belgrade Arena took two hours and 12 minutes, and it puts the host nation on the brink of elimination entering Sunday's third and final day of action.
Dominance was asserted from the outset, as Zimonjic got broken on serve in the opening game of the match.
The first set was rather easy for the formidable Czech tandem, such wasn't the case as the match progressed, with each step becoming increasingly difficult on the indoor hard-court surface.
Zimonjic dropped the first service game of the second set, too, which positioned Stepanek and Berdych for a two-set lead.
Redemption came for the Serbian when Zimonjic scrapped to save two break points in the 11th game of the final set to help force the third-set tiebreaker.
Nevertheless, Berdych and Stepanek notched their 14th victory in 15 Davis Cup matches, continuing to fortify an impressive partnership on the international stage. They conceded only one break point in the entire match, as BBC Sport points out.
In the opinion of the Huffington Post's Andrew Jerell Jones, Stepanek stole the show from his higher-profile teammate with his magnificent play:
After the match, Berdych posted a simple tweet marking his side's edge in the competition:
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic must win his singles match against Berdych in order to thwart the Czech Republic's bid of capturing the Davis Cup for the second straight year. Both breezed through their opening singles matches in straight sets, which makes Sunday's showdown all the more exciting.
Live Tennis' Michael Hale was surprised that Djokovic wasn't deployed into doubles despite the taxing physical toll it would have taken:
Now, the onus will be on Djokovic to keep the 2010 champion's hopes alive in this tournament, but he has won 23 consecutive matches since losing the U.S. Open final to Rafael Nadal.
According to ATPWorldTour.com, Djokovic holds a 14-2 advantage against Berdych in their previous encounters.
The towering 6'5" 28-year-old Berdych discussed the prospects of facing Djokovic in that ATP report and implied he'd give it his all and be aggressive:
We've put all the pressure on Serbia. We are in the best possible position after Saturday. I have nothing to lose [against Djokovic]. I'm feeling good on the court. It's a huge challenge to play Novak in front of his home crowd and in the form he's in. But I will try to do my best, play my best tennis and you never know
If Berdych gets the rubber, the last Sunday singles match between Stepanek and No. 117-ranked Dusan Lajovic—who replaced an injured Janko Tipsarevic for the final—will be rendered irrelevant
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!