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Page last updated at 20:31 GMT, Sunday, 8 March 2009

Czechs stun France in Davis Cup

Stepanek (right) celebrates with Czech coach Jaroslav Navratil
Stepanek (right) celebrates with Czech coach Jaroslav Navratil

The Czech Republic sent a highly-rated France squad crashing out of the Davis Cup in the World Group first round with a 3-2 victory in Ostrava.

Radek Stepanek saw off Gilles Simon 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 7-6 (7-0) on Sunday to give the Czechs an unassailable 3-1 lead.

Captain Guy Forget said before the tie his was the best France squad since the 'Musketeers' of the 1920s and 1930s.

In Benidorm, Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 6-1 to seal victory for Cup holders Spain against Serbia.

France had been hugely optimistic with a line-up of Simon, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet - all either current or former top-10 players - along with Michael Llodra, one of the best doubles players in the world.

The team had drawn comparisons with the 'Musketeers' of Henri Cochet, Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon, who won every Davis Cup between 1927 and 1932.

"Apart from perhaps the Musketeers, we've never had such a strong French team on paper in our history," said Forget.

However, Tomas Berdych upset Simon on day one and, after Tsonga routed Stepanek, the Czechs took the lead again with victory in Saturday's doubles.

Stepanek then sealed a famous victory with a comprehensive win over Simon on Sunday to set up a home quarter-final against last year's runners-up Argentina in July.

WORLD GROUP 1st round
Argentina 5-0 Netherlands
Czech Rep 3-2 France
USA 4-1 Switzerland
Croatia 5-0 Chile
Sweden 2-3 Israel
Romania 1-4 Russia
Germany 3-2 Austria
Spain 4-1 Serbia
Tsonga claimed the final consolation point for France as he beat Jan Hernych in straight sets.

Argentina wrapped up a 5-0 defeat of the Netherlands as Juan Ignacio Chela and Martin Vassallo Arguello won Sunday's singles rubbers in Buenos Aires.

With Spain leading Serbia 2-1 going into the final day in Benidorm, the clash between the world numbers one and three was crucial, but Djokovic never looked like beating Nadal on the clay.

"The surface favoured me, the ball was jumping high," said Nadal. "I felt comfortable and he committed more errors than usual."

Djokovic put up a better fight than he had in Saturday's error-strewn loss to David Ferrer, but was unable to cope with the world number one's superior hitting.

"Since arriving on Monday, I only had two good training sessions," said Djokovic. "But that's no excuse.

Rafael Nadal
Nadal was in top form as he swept past Djokovic in Benidorm
"For various factors, it wasn't good for us, it wasn't nice to lose the way we did. We just have to hope for the best draw come September."

It was Nadal's 12th win in 12 Davis Cup singles rubbers since he lost his 2004 debut against Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic.

Ferrer made the final margin of victory 4-1 with a 6-0 6-3 win over Viktor Troicki.

Spain's match against Croatia had been scheduled to begin on Friday but day one was postponed after high winds damaged seating at the purpose-built arena in the Mediterranean resort.

Champions Spain will play Germany in the quarter-finals in July, after Nicolas Kiefer beat Austria's Juergen Melzer 7-6 6-4 6-4 to put the hosts 3-1 up in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Stefan Koubek won the remaining rubber for the visitors.

Elsewhere in the World Group, Israel enjoyed a 3-2 win over Sweden, bringing a suitably dramatic end to a tumultuous weekend in Malmo.

The tie was played behind closed doors amid security fears in the light of Israel's recent offensive in Gaza, and demonstrators had clashed with police on Saturday as thousands marched in protest.

Czech Rep v Argentina
Croatia v USA
Israel v Russia
Spain v Germany
Inside the Baltic Hall, the tie came down to a deciding rubber on Sunday after Dudi Seal beat veteran Thomas Johansson in five sets.

"I have never been this sore in my body in my whole life," said the Swede. "My back was not answering. And I knew going in the fifth - no chance. And of course it's worse in Davis Cup, I didn't want to put Vinciguerra in this position."

Harel Levy then won an epic decider, beating Andreas Vinciguerra 6-4 4-6 6-4 3-6 8-6.

"Maybe they lost this tie from the lack of support from the spectators," said Levy. "After all, it affected them more than it affected us. Hopefully it won't happen again."

Russia dominated the final day against Romania in Sibiu as Dimitry Tursunov fought back from two sets down to beat Victor Hanescu 4-6 5-7 6-3 6-4 6-2, before Teimuraz Gabashvili made it 4-1.

Croatia completed a 5-0 win against Chile on Sunday as Roko Karanusic and Ivo Karlovic posted wins.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Andy Roddick put paid to any American nerves as he eased past Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4 6-4 6-2 to give the USA a 3-1 lead over Switzerland.

James Blake wrapped up the first-round ties by beating Marco Chiudinelli 6-4 7-6 (8-6).

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see also
Spain tie suspended after gales
06 Mar 09 |  Tennis

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