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Czech Republic finishes sweep against Japan

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

The Czech Republic wrapped up its Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal against Japan on Sunday with two more victories to complete a 5-0 sweep.

Czech No. 1 Lukas Rosol beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the first reverse singles three-set dead rubber at Ariake Colosseum. Uchiyama was a substitute for Japan No. 1 Tatsuma Ito.

Jiri Vesely stood in for Czech No. 2 Radek Stepanek and defeated Japan No. 2 Taro Daniel 6 4, 6 4 in the second match.

Rosol and Stepanek posted a decisive 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ito and Uchiyama in doubles on Saturday to clinch the tie 3-0 for the two-time defending champions, who will now advance to a semifinal against the winner of the quarterfinal between Germany and France this weekend in the semifinals in September.

Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil emphasized how teamwork and pride helped combine to achieve the victory.

“My players play together and fight for their country,” Navratil stated. “It is always an honor to play Davis Cup.”

Navratil made no secret of who he would like to see his country take on in the semifinals.

“I think it would be better for us to play Germany,” he said, adding that his team was “confident it could win a third straight trophy.”

Rosol relied on his huge forehand to secure the victory over Uchiyama. The Japanese volleyed well in winning the second set, but could not overcome the combination of speed and power that the Czech exhibited.

It was the third match that Rosol had been victorious in, along with his opening singles match and the doubles.

“It was a tough match. It was not easy for me,” said Rosol. “I was tired after the first two days.”

Rosol summarized the contest succinctly.

“I think I won because I had more experience than him,” he said. “He has not played much in the Davis Cup and usually plays doubles.”

Uchiyama, who is ranked 277th in singles, acknowledged there is a significant gap in ability between himself and players in the top 50.

“I tried to show my best and gave everything I had,” said Uchiyama. “This was good for me. I could see the difference in the level of me and the top players.”

Vesely showed a strong serve and took advantage of many unforced errors by Daniel in the triumph.

The left-handed Vesely said it took time to settle in against Daniel on the final day of the tie.

“I struggled a bit in the first set, but got control of the match in the second,” he commented. “Taro plays solid and does not make many mistakes.”

Vesely noted that in the past he has felt nervous during Davis Cup matches, but it was different this time around.

“This was my best game ever in the Davis Cup,” he said. “I felt calm from the time I arrived in Tokyo.”

The Japanese-American Daniel, ranked 190th, was upbeat despite the loss.

“I showed that I am capable of competing against the top 100 players, especially from the baseline,” he said. “The keys I need to work on are my serve and play on the big points.”

Stepanek downed Ito 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, 7-5 in the first singles match on Friday, while Rosol bested the unheralded Daniel 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 in the second.

Both sides were without their top players here. Tomas Berdych was out for the Czechs following two tough tournaments in the United States, while Kei Nishikori was sidelined due to an injured groin suffered in a quarterfinal victory over Roger Federer in the Sony Open in Miami.

Japan suffered an additional blow on the eve of the tie when its projected No. 1 Go Soeda came down with a fever and was unable to participate.

Despite the setback, Japan captain Minoru Ueda is already plotting a course for the future.

“Our goal is to make the semifinals of the Davis Cup,” he stated. “It will be tough to do. I find that as the players improve individually, the team will also improve.”

Ueda was particularly pleased with the performance of Ito and the 20-year-old Daniel in the tie.

“They both had good experiences here and learned what they have to work on,” said Ueda. “It is a good development for the future of our team.”

Japan will remain in the World Group in 2015 despite the defeat. Japan will learn who its next opponent will be in September, when the draw is held to determine next year’s first-round ties.