at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Dusseldorf - ATP number seven Tomas Berdych handed American Andy Roddick a second heavy loss in the French Open tune-up week, with the Czech putting his nation into early command over the United States on Tuesday at the World Team Cup.
Teammate Radek Stepanek finished the job 6-2, 6-1 over James Blake for an unbeatable lead as the four-time champion Americans sunk into a 2-0 deficit which guarantees the Czech a second victory from as many ties.
Berdych, a 2010 Roland Garros semi-finalist and runner-up this month to Roger Federer in Madrid, demolished the match-short American 6-1, 6-2 in 61 minutes, hammering 11 aces.
“I had very good preparation for this clay season,” said Berdych, who said that losing last March in the Miami third round gave him extra weeks to prepare for the clay.
“I'm here to help the team try and win. We need at least two points. The goal is to be ready to play matches here and to win them. It's not yet time to think of the French Open.”
Roddick, a former number one now ranked 29th, is playing for the first time in nearly two months after a hip injury and has won just seven games in two matches this week at the Rochusclub.
The eight-nation round-robin event is the final practice for Paris, which begins on Sunday, and comprises Roddick's only chance to get acclimated to a surface where he has never done well.
Berdych, by contrast is humming along this dirt season and heading to the major on form.
The big Czech lifted the opening set in 28 minutes and took only slightly longer for the second. Teammate Radek Stepanek could give the Europeans an unbeatable lead in the Red Group tie as he plays James Blake, which would put them in good stead after beating Japan 2-1.
The winners of the two groups qualify for Saturday's final, played the day before the start of Roland Garros.
Berdych closed his gap with Roddick to 5-6 after winning their last two matches, including in Miami in March before Roddick was injured again.
The Czech has reached the quarter-finals or better in seven tournaments in 2012 and now stands 13-3 on clay.
In the Blue group, German Florian Mayer won his second match in as many days as he overwhelmed Croatian Ivan Dodig 6-1, 6-1 to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Mayer, ranked 35th after once approaching the cusp of the top 20, had a run of poor form on clay before winning a round in Rome last week. The 28-year-old is building confidence quickly.
“This is exactly what I needed,” Mayer said of the 64-minute victory. “Today I played like I know how to. It's how I was playing at this time a year ago.
“I had the perfect attitude, didn't get upset, kept fighting and played great. There is nothing that I'm not happy about.”
The outcome of the tie will not be decided until Wednesday, with another singles and a doubles rubber to come.
Serbia took a 1-0 Blue lead over Russia as Viktor Troicki beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 6-2.
In Red, Leonardo Mayer put former winner Argentina into early control with his defeat of Japan's Tashuma Ito 6-4, 6-4. - Sapa-dpa