Top players missing as Czechs take on Aussies in Davis Cup
The Czech Republic and Australia will both be without their top players when they clash in a Davis Cup World Group first-round tie in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava this weekend.
Prague: The Czech Republic and Australia will both be without their top players when they clash in a Davis Cup World Group first-round tie in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava this weekend.
The Czechs will miss Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, who led them to Davis Cup wins in 2012 and 2013, while Australia bemoan the absence of Nick Kyrgios, their highest-ranking singles player.
On the superfast Novacrylic Ultracushion court of Ostrava`s CEZ Arena, the home side will rely on big servers for the singles -- world number 31 Lukas Rosol and 45th-ranked Jiri Vesely.
They will be joined by first-timers Jan Mertl (218) and Adam Pavlasek (247) who is still better known in his home country as the former boyfriend of Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova rather than for his tennis skills.
Australia have called up 38th-ranked Bernard Tomic alongside fast-serving Sam Groth (69), veteran Lleyton Hewitt (98) and 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis (133).
In his last Davis Cup season as a player, the 34-year-old Hewitt is set to take over as team captain from Wally Masur after he hangs up his racquet at the 2016 Australian Open.
Berdych, the world number nine, said he would skip the match -- only the fourth Davis Cup tie he will miss in 12 years -- to focus on his singles career, but he vowed to be ready for the quarter-finals if the Czechs make it past Australia.
Kyrgios, ranked 36th, is grappling with a back problem, while the veteran doubles specialist Stepanek is slow to recover from a calf injury.
The history books show that Australia have won six out of seven Davis Cup ties against the Czech Republic or its predecessor Czechoslovakia.
In their last tie, Australia trounced the Czechs 5-0 in the 1997 quarter-finals in Adelaide.
Australia have won the Davis Cup 28 times -- the second best country ever after the United States with 32 wins -- but its last title dates back to 2003.
The Czechs lifted the trophy in 2012 and 2013, three decades after the former Czechoslovakia had won the cup in 1980 with a team led by then 20-year-old Ivan Lendl.
Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, four years after shedding its totalitarian Communist rule of four decades.
In the 2014 edition, both rivals lost to France -- Australia in the first round and the Czech Republic in the semi-finals.