Feb 8, 2003 2-1 after the doubles
Kafelnikov and Youzhny Edge Russia Closer to Victory
The Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev explained at Thursday's draw why he hadn't nominated Yevgeny Kafelnikov for Friday's singles. He wanted to save the four-time Grand Slam doubles champion for doubles.
And it was a good solution, Kafelnikov combining for the first time with Mikhail Youzhny to defeat the experienced Czech pairing of Martin Damm and Cyril Suk 76(1) 46 63 63 in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie in Ostrava. The title holders now go into the final day with a 2-1 lead.
"There was no turning point in the match, not even from 1-3 to 6-3 in the third set. All sets were decided on one or two points. The team which played consistently on the most important points won," Kafelnikov said after the match. He was the dominant player of the Russian pairing and proved why he has won 25 ATP doubles titles.
Kafelnikov used the whole clay court in the Palac Kultury Sportu Vitkovice, and his finesse at the net and lobs were breathtaking to the 5000 fans in the venue. "He had some ups and downs but he played really well on the important points," said Damm.
The Czechs were the first to lose serve when 36-year-old Suk double-faulted in the seventh game of the first set. But Kafelnikov failed to serve out for the set at 5-4, making two double faults, and the Czech pair levelled at 5-5. The tiebreak was completely in the hands of the visitors. The Russians played more aggressively to lead 4-0 and went on to convert their first set point.
The Czechs didn't lose hope, breaking Youzhny immediately in the first game of the second set. With no more break points in the set, the experienced thirty-year-olds went on to level the match and also built up a 3-1 lead in the third set. But that was still not enough to beat the Russians.
"That [the third set] was probably the turning point of the match," Suk said. "We were not very lucky in the first set tiebreak, but after we lost a 3-1 lead in the third set, Russia started to play better and more aggressively," the world’s eleventh-ranked doubles player added.
His partner agreed. "We lost my serve a strange way, and in the next games, especially Youzhny started to play really great. He served well and his returns were beautiful," said Damm, who has lost all of his five doubles in Davis Cup.
Youzhny's consistent play, not only at the net, and Kafelnikov's doubles experience helped the Russians make the two vital breaks in the third set and another three in fourth. The Czech duo saved the first match point when Youzhny sent a return into the net, but a down-the-line backhand winner from Kafelnikov guaranteed the second point for the away team.
But Suk didn't regret changing his role of non-playing captain for a role of an active player. "It was a team decision when Jiri Novak confirmed that he wouldn't like to play doubles. We didn't want to let Stepanek play in Davis Cup for the first time on all three days. And you can never know if any other doubles pair would play better than me and Martin. We played a good match but the Russians were just better.”
The defending champions need just one point for a place in the quarterfinals but Kafelnikov doesn't expect a change of nominations for Sunday's singles. "As I said before I don't feel prepared enough for best-of-five sets matches. And Mikhail (Youzhny) and Nikolay (Davydenko) are in a good shape," he added.
The last time the Czech Republic made a successful comeback from 2-1 down was in a World Group first round tie against India in Pribram in 1997.