Friday wasn’t the start to the 2012 Davis Cup Final that I was looking for. Radek Stepanek produced a pretty awful performance to allow David Ferrer to overrun him in straight sets on a court surface that does give reward to the kind of flat hitting that Steps can produce.
Tomas Berdych didn’t exactly cover himself with glory either, after suggesting in his pre-match press conference that Nico Almagro was the weak link in the Spanish side. In fact, both players managed to do what was expected, just at the wrong time. Almagro served woefully in the first set - at around 40% of first serves in play - to ruin one bet, while Berdych allowed him back in the match in the second set to down another. All in all Berdych was a relieved man to have won.
Saturday at the O2 Arena in Prague features the often-pivotal doubles. It’s a heavyweight clash this time between the experienced Czech team and the World Tour Finals-winning Spanish duo. Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych have only ever lost one Davis Cup doubles rubber as a partnership and that was to the Spanish team of Feli Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in the 2009 final on clay in a 5-0 defeat.
They’ve never been beaten as a pair on a hard court in this competition and they have considerably more Davis Cup experience than their opponents today, who have played just the three rubbers together as a partnership. Logic would dictate that the pacy court that has been produced in Prague this weekend will favour the attacking instincts of Berdych and Stepanek rather than the more defensive style that is the norm for Granollers and Lopez. But the worry is the form of Stepanek after his poor serving display of Friday. He will need to take it up a few notches if the hosts are to take a 2-1 lead today.
The match begins at 1pm UK time on Saturday and I suspect this one might go the way of the Czech pair, as their experience of Davis Cup and home advantage should prove the difference in what could be quite a close tussle. But they're not a great price.
I’m not at all convinced about Granollers and Lopez in a huge match like this one, with big pressure on, but they do have the distinct advantage of facing fatigued rivals, after Berdych’s long five setter with Almagro yesterday.
That said, is doubles really that tiring? I’m not sure that it is. And the Czech pair realistically have to win if they’re to stand any chance in this tie, as Ferrer looks in ominous form right now. This is a tough one to confidently pick an outright winner in and the Czechs look a little short at around 1.72 so with a tight match expected the over 39.5 games looks the bet at 1.87.
Back over 39.5 games at 1.87