Czech Republic opens Davis Cup without Berdych, Stepanek
The Czech Republic will start a Davis Cup tie without the formidable Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek for the first time in three years in the quarterfinal against host Kazakhstan on Friday.
Berdych was injured and Stepanek was rested from the opening singles. The latter hasn't played since January, when he had a neck operation.
He's been saved for the doubles on Saturday, and may play in the reverse singles on Sunday on the indoor clay-court.
Without Berdych and Stepanek for only the second time in a decade, the Czechs will send out Jan Hajek against Mikhail Kukushkin, followed by Lukas Rosol against Andrey Golubev.
Hajek and Rosol are much higher ranked, but Kukushkin and Golubev have never lost a cup singles at home.
"We have prepared well and I have belief in our guys," Kazakhstan captain Dias Doskarayev said at Thursday's draw. "Hopefully we can have a good start and take a good lead."
The last time Hajek led off the Czechs, he lost a five-setter to Golubev in 2011. Hajek also lost that tie's decider to Kukushkin in four sets, giving the Kazakhs an upset first-round victory.
Kukushkin also beat Hajek in their only other match in a low-level tour event five years ago.
Rosol won his only previous match with Golubev in a minor event, also five years ago.
"I hope we have enough of a strong team to beat Kazakhstan," Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said. "I'll be happy with 1-1 after tomorrow's matches."
Stepanek has been teamed with Ivo Minar, playing his third tie. The pair is untested, and Minar hasn't played doubles since November. They face Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin, who have a 0-3 record in cup doubles.
The winner will play either Argentina or France in the semifinals in September.