Tennis: Holders Czechs ease past Netherlands in Davis Cup

Defending champions the Czech Republic beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the first round of the Davis Cup on Sunday to win their tenth straight tie and book a ticket to Japan for the quarter-finals.

Tomas Berdych gave the Czechs an unbeatable 3-1 lead as he eased past Thiemo de Bakker in straight sets.

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.

In the final dead rubber, Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands saw off Czech Lukas Rosol 6-3, 6-3.

The Czechs, 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 first 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 tiring four sets in Saturday's doubles.

On the hardcourt of the CEZ Arena in the eastern city of Ostrava, the Dutchman proved to be meek opposiiton for Berdych 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 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.

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.