Czechs out to avenge 2009 thrashing by Spain
Czechs out to avenge 2009 thrashing by Spain
The team led by Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek will also want to add another trophy to the Fed Cup which the Czech women’s team lifted in Prague earlier this month.
World No. 6 Berdych and 37th-ranked Stepanek are due to face David Ferrer, who stands fifth in the rankings, and 11th-ranked Nicolas Almagro in the singles on the hardcourt of Prague’s O2 Arena.
Spain will miss their No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from a knee injury and who led the team in the 2009 thrashing of the Czechs on a clay court in Barcelona.
Stepanek waved that bad memory aside, saying “a lot of time has passed since then.”
“Our three greatest advantages are the choice of surface, the home crowd and Nadal’s absence,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Berdych, meanwhile, maintained that a lack of experience had hurt the Czechs back in 2009.
“It was the first final we ever played,” he said, adding that the Prague tie would be “absolutely different.” “I hope all the differences that we see as pros will make it easier for us to win three points,” he said.
Spain’s captain Alex Corretja agreed that the memory of 2009 would not mean much.
“I wish I could say yes but unfortunately I have to say no. It’s an absolutely different competition, playing on clay and on this surface,” he said.
The surface — Novacrylic Ultracushion — which the Czechs tested during the Fed Cup finals two weeks ago — can make all the difference.
“It’s well prepared, I’d say the surface is faster than at regular tournaments,” said Berdych.
David Ferrer was less pleased with the choice of surface.
“The court is the fastest of the year, we never play on a faster court,” he said.
“For them it’s better than for us,” he said, adding that he expected “a very close tie.”
Sticking with the team that beat Argentina in the semi-finals, Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil also called up world number 87 Lukas Rosol and 186th-ranked Ivo Minar.
Corretja has also left the team unchanged from the semi-finals in which they eased past the United States.
For the doubles, Spain will bet on Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, who got a massive boost on Monday as they won the ATP Tour Finals in London.
“We come here with a lot of confidence,” said Granollers.
But Stepanek said this did not mean much: “That doesn’t really count here, Davis Cup is a unique contest.”
Stepanek and India’s Leander Paes were the only pair to beat Granollers and Lopez in London.
“It’s great to test the way they play,” said Stepanek, who will team up with Berdych for the final doubles.
“We’ve been doing great together, I hope it won’t be any different here,” Stepanek said.
The 100th edition of the Davis Cup final will be played in front of almost 14,000 people — a crowd that pushed the Czech women’s team to a Fed Cup defense following a final victory over Serbia on the first weekend in November.
A Davis Cup win would give Czechs a rare team double — last achieved by the United States in 1990.
Spain are looking to add a fourth crown to their three Davis Cup trophies from the last four years. They also won the cup in 2000 and 2004.
Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the Davis Cup in 1980 with a team led by the then 20-year-old Ivan Lendl.
Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16
- Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday
- Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium
MOSCOW: Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday, scoring twice as Belgium moved to the brink of the last 16 after a 5-2 romp against Tunisia.
The victory leaves the Red Devils top of Group G with two wins ahead of their clash on Thursday against England, who play Panama on Sunday.
After also scoring twice in the opening 3-0 win against Panama, Manchester United’s Lukaku showed clinical finishing with two first-half goals in Moscow, matching Ronaldo’s tally in Russia.
Not to be outdone, Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium, before substitute Michy Batshuayi added their fifth.
Tunisia’s consolation goals came from defender Dylan Bronn and captain Wahbi Khazri.
The Belgians were criticized by coach Roberto Martinez for starting slowly against Panama in their first group match but flew out of the blocks in Moscow.
Hazard — having been on the receiving end of some bruising tackles in Belgium’s opener — was sent tumbling after just five minutes but converted the penalty to open his Russian account.
Midfielder Ferjani Sassi picked up an early booking for complaining when Tunisia’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, just before Belgium added their second goal.
Ali Maaloul’s weak pass on the halfway line was collected by Dries Mertens, who sprinted away and put Lukaku clear.
The striker coolly hit his shot inside the far post, just past the outstretched glove of Tunisia keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha, in the 16th minute.
Tunisia responded two minutes later, Bronn leaping highest to head home a free-kick from his skipper Khazri on 18 minutes, only to be later carried off after landing awkwardly following a collision.
With half-time approaching, the Belgians grabbed their third goal.
After earlier squandering two clear chances created by Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku converted his third opportunity just before the half-time whistle.
Thomas Meunier put him in behind the defense and Lukaku tucked his shot away, celebrating with De Bruyne, who started the move.
The Manchester City midfield maestro turned provider again after the break for Hazard.
The Chelsea star sprinted onto De Bruyne’s lofted pass, held off two defenders, rounded keeper Ben Mustapha and tapped home Belgium’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.
With one eye on the England game, Martinez took off Lukaku, then Hazard as the half wore on and for the final 22 minutes brought on Batshuayi, who could have scored five.
The Borussia Dortmund forward had a chance cleared off the line, was twice denied by Ben Mustapha’s saves and hit the crossbar, finally converting a cross for Belgium’s fifth goal.
Tunisia captain Khazri grabbed their second goal just before the final whistle of their second defeat in Russia.