November 20, 2013 by Parveer Mann
Originally published on Back Row Sports.
They’ve just won their second consecutive Davis Cup. They’ve had to do so in a hostile environment in Belgrade. Their closer (Radek Stepanek) has made history by winning the deciding rubber in consecutive finals and has now become one of the most irritating matchups in Davis Cup. So, why is no one talking about this Czech team as the next potential Davis Cup dynasty?
In the days since retaining the Davis Cup, I’ve read little about how the Czech Republic has suddenly morphed into a Davis Cup power (along with the two wins, they were runner-ups in 2009) and it’s easy to know why: Circumstance. The biggest knock against this Czech run is that the team has gotten a very fortunate draw in both Finals. Last year, they had home-court advantage and were up against a Spanish team without Rafael Nadal. This year, they were against a team without Janko Tipsarevic (injury) or Victor Troicki (ITF ban) and a team hesitant to have Novak Djokovic play doubles. I’d tend to agree that it hasn’t been the most difficult route to victory. Just imagine what a healthy Tipsarevic would have added after witnessing his Davis Cup heroics against Canada in September.
Plus, even though the Czechs have been involved in consecutive finals that have gone the distance, the team hasn’t had a truly memorable moment in either. That matters in Davis Cup, a tournament already relegated to second-tier status during the ATP season. You need to have one of those eye-catching showdowns or marathon matches to make your team buzz worthy. So it’s fair to say the Czechs have been a bit lucky and boring but there must be something more that has led them to championships?
Why the Czech team works?
It’s true; the Czech Republic team is a hard group to get excited about. They have no big name stars (apologies Tomas Berdych, you need more than one Grand Slam finals appearance to qualify) so it is natural that the casual fan will get more invested in a run by Spain, Serbia, Switzerland or the Brits. However, they have developed something more important, a commitment to show up and play each and every time.
Whether it be good health or a good relationship with the national tennis federation, the Czechs have been fortunate to have Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek play in every important tie for the past five years. Not only have other countries not had that, they also haven’t had both players do everything to win including play doubles. It was quite clear in Belgrade this past weekend that Berdych and Stepanek would play every match but you knew you could trust them do so because they had built a chemistry of success over these years.
I know it’s unfortunate for the average tennis fan that we didn’t get to see the best that both countries could offer these past years but it shouldn’t undermine what the Czechs have done. They have prepared and been dedicated throughout so they could succeed under any circumstance.