Stepanek, Monaco to open Davis Cup semi

Radek Stepanek of holders Czech Republic will take on Argentina’s Juan Monaco in the opening rubber of the Davis Cup semi-finals starting in Prague on Friday.


Stepanek, the world No.61 and second-ranked Czech, will face Argentina’s 30th-ranked Monaco at Prague’s O2 Arena.

After that rubber, fifth-ranked Tomas Berdych will face world No.93 Leonardo Mayer on the superfast acrylic hardcourt, on which the Czechs won last year’s final against Spain.

“We have played lots of games against each other. He plays great tennis from the baseline,” the 34-year-old Stepanek told reporters after the draw on Thursday.

“I’ll try to use the surface; to take advantage of it.”

On Saturday, the Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol are due to face Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos and Carlos Berlocq in the doubles rubber.

But the Czechs are likely to change their pairing and rely on Berdych and Stepanek, who have so far only lost one of 13 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together since teaming up in 2007.

The winner of the tie will take on Canada or Serbia in the November 15-17 finals.

The two teams last clashed in 2012 when the Czechs beat Argentina 3-2 in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires, before lifting the trophy after a 3-2 final win against Spain. Argentina, who have played three finals in the past seven years, are seeking their first Davis Cup.

Argentine captain Martin Jaite has shunned world No.45 Berlocq for the singles, while his Czech counterpart is likely to rest out-of-form 46th-ranked Rosol.

Berdych said he was not surprised by the choice as Mayer is good on hard surfaces.

“He has a great serve; he tries to play aggressively,” said Berdych.

“But I’ll focus on myself. I need to win three sets and that’s it.”

Argentina are missing their top star Juan Martin del Potro, who is taking a break from the competition this year, as well as an injured David Nalbandian, who has won both Davis Cup doubles so far this year with Zeballos.