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31 October 2013

Berdych, Stepanek to lead Czechs in final


Photo: Martin SidorjakRadek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek will lead Czech Republic’s bid to defend its Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title on 15-17 November, captain Jaroslav Navratil announced on Thursday.

Navratil has made one change to the team that secured Czech Republic a spot in this year’s final against Serbia at the Belgrade Arena with victory over Argentina in the semifinals, with Berdych, Stepanek and Lukas Rosol joined by Jan Hajek who returns in place of 20-year-old Jiri Vesely. 

Stepanek and Berdych feature in the team for the second straight tie after injuries limited their involvement in the opening two rounds of the 2013 competition. Stepanek missed Czech Republic’s dramatic 3-2 first round victory over Switzerland following neck surgery while Berdych was unable to take part in their 3-1 triumph over Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals due to a shoulder injury.

Reunited in September’s semifinals, Berdych and Stepanek combined to win the opening three rubbers against Argentina in Prague to guide Navratil’s team into successive Davis Cup finals for the first time in the nation's history.

The pair, defeated just once in 14 doubles rubbers in the competition, will look to earn Czech Republic the distinction of becoming just the fifth different nation to defend the Davis Cup title since the formation of the World Group in 1981. They know, of course, they face a huge challenge in the form of 2010 champion Serbia, who will likely be led by world No. 2 Novak Djokovic.

Hajek’s return, meanwhile, also serves as a boost for the Czech team. The world No. 109 recorded a valuable opening rubber win against Mikhail Kukushkin in April’s quarterfinals, a tie highlighted by two singles rubber wins for Rosol, and will be delighted to be included in the squad after missing out on last year’s 3-2 Final triumph over Spain.

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