Prague – Tomas Berdych led defending champions the Czech Republic to the Davis Cup quarter-finals on Sunday as he beat Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in straight sets for an unbeatable 3-1 lead.
Berdych, the 28-year-old world number seven and Czech number one, swept 139th-ranked De Bakker 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 46
minutes to hand the Czechs a 10th straight Davis Cup win.
The Czech Republic, who won the trophy in 2012 and 2013, will fly to Japan for the quarter-finals in April. Japan beat Canada 4-1 in their first-round tie this weekend.
For Sunday's rubber, the 25-year-old De Bakker replaced tired Dutch number one player Robin Haase, who had played five sets against Radek Stepanek on Friday and then a tiresome four sets in Saturday's doubles.
De Bakker beat Berdych in Bastad in 2013 but lost in their other two encounters.
On the hardcourt of the CEZ Arena in the eastern city of Ostrava, the Dutchman proved an easy prey in the first set, losing 6-1 in 20 minutes.
He showed some resistance in the second but gave up a break which was all that Berdych needed to take it 6-4.
Berdych, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open where he lost to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka, then regained his dominance to take the third set 6-3, despite letting De Bakker snatch a late break.
“I'm glad I handled it this way. I was ready for him today,” said Berdych.
“He had quite a lacklustre start, he failed to play two balls in a row, made lots of mistakes. I only tried to return the ball and serve well.”
On Friday, Haase beat Stepanek 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-1, and Berdych then swept Igor Sijsling 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.
On Saturday Berdych and Stepanek beat Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/4) to win the 15th of their 16
Davis Cup doubles rubbers together since teaming up in 2007.
Berdych said on Saturday the doubles game was “definitely the hardest rubber we've played so far, in all respects.”
The Czechs can keep dreaming of a Davis Cup hat-trick, a feat last achieved by the USA in 1970-1972.
But it is uncertain whether Berdych will stay on the team as Czech media have speculated he might focus on his individual career.
“I want to enjoy the victory now. We'll see,” he said on Sunday. – Sapa-AFP