Czech Republic to play Serbia on clay
The Czech Republic hopes an indoor clay court and home support will help it overcome a Serbia team missing Novak Djokovic and advance to the semifinals of the Davis Cup.
Djokovic, who won his third Sony Ericsson Open title on Sunday, is opting to rest before he opens his clay court season at the Monte Carlo Masters from April 14.
The Czechs, who usually play at home on fast indoor hard courts, are counting on the slow clay court to be an advantage.
The No 7-ranked Tomas Berdych and 24th-ranked Radek Stepanek will lead the Czech team. The two will also play the doubles.
Janko Tipsarevic, who this week reached his highest ranking at No 8, and 27th-ranked Viktor Troicki will play for Serbia, together with doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic.
"Three tough matches are ahead of me," Berdych said Wednesday. "I'm ready."
Berdych has struggled recently, losing to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 at the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open, but he hopes the home crowd at the O2 arena in Prague will give him a lift.
"It helps a great deal," he said. "They help us to play better."
The Czech Republic hopes to capitalise on the good recent form of Stepanek, who teamed up with Leander Paes of India to beat Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open on Saturday.
Stepanek also won the doubles at the Australian Open with the same partner for his maiden Grand Slam title.
"It's a confidence boost to win," Stepanek said.
Stepanek and Berdych, who are 9-1 in the Davis Cup doubles, have already announced that they plan to play doubles at the London Olympics.
In their last Davis Cup meeting, Serbia beat the Czechs 3-2 in 2010 and went on to win the country's first Davis Cup title. The Czechs won their only Davis Cup title as Czechoslovakia in 1980.
"We have to fight off our opponent, the court surface and the Czech fans," Tipsarevic said.
"Balls sometimes jump strangely on that court, but I guess it will be equally bad for them. We have to be patient, not to rush because the surface is so slow."
The winner of the best-of-five series will face Argentina or Croatia in September's semis.