Davis Cup Day One Review: Stepanek Survives 78 Aces To Oust Karlovic
Spain vs. Israel—Polaris World la Torre Golf Resort, Torre Pacheco Murcia
Spain leads 2-0. Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer pulled in two resounding straight sets wins today over the Israeli squad. Ferrer began proceedings by cleaning house in one hour and 56 minutes. Ferrer was in complete control of the backcourt exchanges and displayed his true clay-court talents against his under-matched opponent.
Levy obtained a 3-1 lead in the second set, only to have taken away rapidly. Ferrer never appeared in any danger of his losing this encounter and wrapped up a comfortable first point for his team, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.
The day's second match featured a similar beat-down from Ferrero. The former world No. 1 destroyed the formidable challenge of Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. Although Sela managed to win six games in the contest, the baseline rallies were lengthy and well-constructed, resulting in a two hour and 27 minute encounter.
In the end, it was Ferrero's supreme clay-court guile which led to the straight set shellacking. The Spaniard's topspin and precise serving would be too much for the hard-court game of Sela to endure.
Sela spoke about his defeat in his post match presser.
“I was really tired after the fourth game, and he played a good game at 2-2, he broke my serve and I think that changed everything. He played much better then, he started moving me around, I was tired, and he took control of the match," Sela said.
The game Sela is referring to took place during the fourth game of the second set. The game lasted 16 minutes and saw the Israeli obtain five break-point chances which were scratched away by Ferrero.
After that marathon game was won by Ferrero, Sela's will and desire seemed to dissipate with the blowing red-clay. Ferrero did not lose a game after that hold and went onto a 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 victory.
“He surprised me a little bit, he was so good from the baseline, he was solid with his backhand, hardly making any mistakes, but by the end I felt good physically and was playing so much better than at the beginning,” said Ferrero.
The Spaniards will attempt to land the final knock-out blow on Saturday when Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo take on Andy Ram and Jonathon Elrich.
Lopez and Robredo will be the underdogs in the affair, but with the 10,000 plus supporting staff in attendance, the high flying Spanish team will surely have a great shot of wrapping up their Davis Cup finals spot on Saturday.
Spain will be attempting to win their fourth Davis Cup title if they advance to the December showdown.
Croatia vs. Czech Republic—Sportska dvorana ”ZATIKA”, Porec, Croatia
Czech Republic lead 1-0.
Radek Stepanek withstood 78 aces by Ivo Karlovic today in a five set classic.
If there was ever any doubt that Davis Cup competition lacks tremendous depth and storyline, it was put to the test today. Under a secure roof in Porec Croatia, Radek Stepanek and Ivo Karlovic embarked in one of the longest Davis Cup matches in history, as well as on the ATP World Tour.
Going into this encounter it was evident what Karlovic would bring to the table: All serve and no other confusion. Stepanek on the other hand had been widely known as one of the fittest and craftiest players in the world.
Both men were sent to the utter limits of their games today, in an all-out smack-down affair which ended one minute shy of six hours. Pointing to the sky right after match point, Stepanek won the epic 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (2-7), 16-14.
Each man produced one break of serve in the opening set, until the end of the fifth set. Karlovic's historical "one break is all you need against him," held true in the final set of the match, with Stepanek holding serve at 15-14 and securing a 1-0 lead for his squad.
Karlovic held five match points in the fifth set, but could not muster up one of his monster aces to become victorious.
Stepanek had enough gas in the tank to conjure up a half-hearted worm dance at the end of his historic win.
The win by the Czechs comes as an all important first point. Recent US Open quarterfinalist Marin Cilic will be on-court shortly to take on the ever dangerous Tomas Berdych. This will be the first meeting between the two, but even more importantly it will ends up being a do or die point for the Croatians.
If Cilic goes onto lose against Berdych then the Czechs will be in great position to sweep the host country on Saturday. Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko will represent Croatia on Saturday during the doubles competition against the stronger and more experienced tandem of Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek.
The questionable call by the Croatians to host the tie on an indoor clay may just sink their Davis Cup chances for 2009. Although Stepanek is much better on a faster hard-court, so too is Karlovic, playing to ones strengths can never be taken for granted.
Elsewhere, in playoff competition on Friday, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka gave Switzerland a commanding 2-0 lead over Italy. Federer brushed aside Simone Bolleli 6-3, 6-4, 6-1, and Wawrinka defeated an injured Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. Seppi was suffering from a stomach ailment.
Playing in his 47th Davis Cup match, Federer showed clear comfort in changing gears from the hard-courts of New York to the clay-courts in Italy. The top ranked Swiss glided around the court at the Centro Sportivo "Valleta Cambiaso" showing the outstanding form which propelled him to his French Open win.
"Given the circumstances, I am extremely happy with my performance," said Federer, "We have expected it much tougher today, but of course, we are very happy to have such a great start which gives us all the options for the weekend."
Federer and Wawrinka will be called upon to seal the deal against Italy on Saturday when the Olympic doubles champions take on Fabio Fognini and Potito Starace Barring an unforeseen cause of events, Federer and Wawrinka should dismiss their Italian adversaries quite easily.
Please check back throughout the weekend for continuing daily coverage from the 2009 Davis Cup competition. Cheers.
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