Tennis: Czechs lead Argentina 2-0 in Davis Cup semis

Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych handed the Czech Republic a 2-0 lead over Argentina in their Davis Cup semi-final here on Friday, bringing the reigning champions to within a point of the final.

Stepanek, the world number 61 and Czech number two, saw off 30th-ranked Argentinian number-one player Juan Monaco 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 33 minutes in the opening rubber.

And fifth-ranked Berdych then beat world number 93 Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and one minute.

On the superfast acrylic hardcourt of Prague's O2 Arena, where the Czechs lifted the trophy last year after beating Spain 3-2, a dominant Stepanek capitalised on his aggressive style and an improving serve against Monaco.

"I tried to be active all the time, I was on the defensive for a while, then I attacked, took a few risks, so I played what we had set as the tactics," Stepanek said.

"I'm happy with my performance," added the 34-year-old after earning his fifth win from seven games against the 29-year-old Monaco.

Monaco admitted Stepanek was the better man on the court.

"He played so much better than me. I had my chances in the first set but couldn't make it and somehow he figured it out to play better, with more confidence, and the match became difficult for me," he said.

"In the final set I thought I'm going to come back, but he played really well.

"He impressed me a little bit, I knew that he's a good player on this kind of court, but he played really well today," Monaco said.

In their first-ever encounter, Berdych, 27, and Mayer, 26 -- both fast servers -- were tied after two evenly-matched sets, in which they each snatched a late break for a 6-4 win.

But Berdych then produced some more precise play and took early breaks in both of the next two sets, never offering Mayer a way back into the rubber.

"The first two sets weren't ideal, he started very well, played an aggressive tennis with few mistakes so he deserved to win the second one," said Berdych.

"The breaking point came at the beginning of the third set when I broke his serve and then could do what I wanted on the court," he added.

"I knew it was going to be a fast game, I tried to attack as much as I could, but he was better," conceded Mayer.

Berdych and Stepanek may now have the chance to take all the glory as they are most likely to play the doubles against Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos on Saturday.

"Their singles today weren't too tough. I would like them to play and win the third point on Saturday," said Czech team captain Jaroslav Navratil.

The Czech duo have so far only lost one of 13 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together since teaming up in 2007.

"It would be great to extend the winning streak together, the more so that it would give us the third point," said Berdych.

The winner of the tie will take on either Canada or Serbia in the November 15-17 final.

Argentina are missing their top star Juan Martin Del Potro, who is taking a break from the competition this year, as well as an injured David Nalbandian.

The 2012 Davis Cup triumph was the first for the Czechs since Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the trophy in 1980.

Argentina, who have played three finals in the last seven years, are still seeking their first Davis Cup trophy.