|Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, captains of the
Serbian and Canadian Davis Cup teams,
during the draw in Belgrade, on Wednesday
Prague/Belgrade: US Open doubles champion Radek Stepanek faces Argentina’s Juan Monaco in the opening singles of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semi-final on Friday, as the defending champions bid to reach a third final in five years.
World No. 5 Tomas Berdych will then take on Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the second of the opening day’s matches in Prague, as the Czechs play in front of a home crowd for the first time this season.
Stepanek won the decisive match of the 2012 final against Spain to earn his country the Cup for the first time as an independent nation in Prague last November.
The 34-year-old, who had neck surgery in January, comes into the competition off the back of winning the men’s doubles title with Leander Paes at Flushing Meadows last weekend.
For the second singles rubber, Argentine captain Martin Jaite has surprisingly turned to the lowest ranked player on the team, world No. 93 Mayer.
For Saturday’s doubles match, Czechs Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely are pencilled in to face Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos.
However, the Czechs are likely to turn instead to Stepanek and Berdych, who played all key matches in last year’s title run.
In the other semi-final to be played in Belgrade, Novak Djokovic is looking upbeat and raring to go. He will play singles on the opening day of the semi-final against Canada in the cavernous Belgrade Arena.
“I am tired and jet-lagged but also as inspired and motivated as ever to play for my country,” Djokovic said after Thursday’s draw which pitted him against Vasek Pospisil in Friday’s opening singles rubber.
“It’s not the first time I’ve had only two days to recuperate for a Davis Cup tie after the US Open and the fact that we will be playing at home for the first time in two years will galvanise us to perform.
In World Group playoffs, in Madrid, Rafael Nadal will play Sergiy Stakhovsky in Friday’s second singles rubber after Spain announced their line-up at home to Ukraine.
“When I have been asked and have been free of injury I have always turned out to try to help the team win points and secure victories,” Nadal said.