PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic reached the Davis Cup final again after Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek won their doubles to give the defending champion an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Argentina on Saturday.
Berdych and Stepanek dispatched Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to improve their formidable record in Davis Cup doubles to 13-1, and ensure the Czechs will defend their title against Serbia or Canada in the final in November.
Regardless of who wins between Serbia and Canada, the Czechs will have to travel to the final. "We would like to keep the trophy because it's beautiful," Stepanek said. "This competition means a lot to us."
Berdych converted the first match point of the semifinal with a service winner to send the Czechs to a third final in five years in front of more than 11,000 fans at O2 Arena. "It's an honor for us to play in such an atmosphere," Stepanek, who was jumping on the court in joy with other members of the squad, told the crowd. "You're fantastic."
The Czechs never lost serve, saving two Argentine break opportunities to clinch their eighth straight cup victory. Just days after his second Grand Slam doubles title at the U.S. Open, Stepanek dominated at the net with his volleys while Berdych added his powerful serve for a lethal combination that the Argentines were not able to match in their cup doubles debut.
"Everything was on the right place, today," Berdych said. "We didn't drop serve, and then we were taking our chances." Their only moment of worry, albeit briefly, was when Stepanek fell with what seemed to be a leg injury in the sixth game of the first set but recovered and continued to play.
"I just had a misstep on the return and twisted a little bit but it was nothing serious," Stepanek said. "It didn't affect me at all." Zeballos was impressed by Berdych and Stepanek. "(They) are a really good couple," he said. "Berdych has an unbelievable serve and really good return and Stepanek has a lot of confidence right now."
Last year, Berdych and Stepanek played all five rubbers in last year's final in Prague, beating Spain 3-2 to give their country its first Davis Cup title as an independent nation and avenge the 2009 5-0 final loss to the Spaniards.
As in last year's final against Spain, the Czechs elected to play on their favorite fast surface to counter Argentina's clay-court specialists. That decision paid off. On Friday, Stepanek swept Juan Monaco 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 and Berdych overcame hard-hitting Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the opening singles.
Argentina is without star Juan Martin Del Potro, who elected to skip the cup this year but even without him, Argentina reached the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. But its pursuit of a first cup title was ended for the second year in a row by the Czechs in the semis.
"It was a really good year for our country," Zeballos said. "To be in the semifinals, to be one of the four who made the semifinals this year is a really good thing."