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Can we defend next year?

3144 Views 21 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  ys
Too early, perhaps.. But..

We are to play Czech Rep and then, perhaps, Argentina. Both away ties.

The bottomline is, we need Yevgeny. At least on paper. Just to cover our serious weakness on fastcourt end. Marat can play fastcourts. But I do not think Misha can, his game is tailor-made for slower surfaces, clay in particular. And we need the doubles team. So, I reckon, Zhenya has to stay, at least in case we play indoors hardcourts/carpet and for doubles.

First tie - Czech Republic. February. So it's indoors, guaranteed.
I think, it is going to be indoor hardcourts, or, maybe clay. But the surface is likely to be slow. Novak isn't good on fastcourts. If it is hardcourts, we need Zhenya, if it is clay, we don't need him for singles, but we do need him for doubles.

Second tie - Argentina. It's going to be an epic, if both teams get there. You can say it already. Again both teams are stronger on slower surface end. But I think, we are stronger. I think, time will show how actually good Misha can be on clay.

If we get to the semis. It's most likely to be Spain, and in Moscow and on carpet. And that's where we'll need Zhenya badly.

What could be good about final, it'd most likely to be in Moscow.

Overall, I think we have a good 25% chance to defend. That's not too little. If we manage to get through the first two rounds, I think we'll be odds-on favourites to defend.
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Can Russia defend the title?

Of course, they CAN. The question is, will they?

There are a lot of variables that cannot be foreseen at the moment, namely player injuries, physical conditions and other things that may reverse the situation.

If Marat is OK, the team is guaranteed at least 2 points for both his singles match in every rubber because then he is simply unbeatable. Doubles - well, that's a real problem. Zhenia is very important for the team not only for doubles and fastcourts, but also as a support or core of the team.

Misha can learn to play well on fast surfaces or, maybe, can raise his game for accasion... but just two youngsters :) leading the team is too scary a thought for me. (And I believe that Zhenia stays :) )

I'm not very good with numbers but the team has chances to defend and show this victory was not accidental.
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I actually think Misha is even better on fast surfaces than clay, although his results on clay were better.

I don't think we will defend the title although I obviously hope we will. I think we'll get through Czech Rep, it won't be easy though. But Argentina will be too tough IMO, at home they play better, the support there is tremendous plus they'll be eager to get revenge from this years loss. If we get through Argentina, we have a good chance to win the Cup, esp if we play the semi and the final in Moscow
I do not know about Misha on faster surfaces. If you mean "grass" as a faster surface than I agree, because in terms of groundstrokes grass is even slower than clay. But for "really" fast surfaces - with fast and normal (or high ) bounce - his singlehander will probably be a liability - not enough time for backswing.. Single-handed topspin backhands are vulnerable indoors and on fast hardcourts...
As to playing Argentina.. Top-form Safin will blow away anyone on clay, except for, probably, Kuerten, and he is not Argentinian..:). Whether he'll be in good form by then, and whether we would get the third point remains to be seen. I wonder, given Nalbandyan heroics at Wimbledon and very good abilities of Canas on grass, wouldn't Argentina build a grasscourt for that..:) But basically, if Canas is at his best Argies can really challenge us even if we are at our best - other Argentinian players - I do not consider them world-class as of now..
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there is no guarantee Marat will be on top of his form during the ties, Argentinians can always pick whoever they think is playing better at the time, I'm sure it will be clay though :) Any Argenian can beat Safin when he's not playing his best tennis (in Argentina), although I have a feeling that, especially after this year, Davis Cup means a lot to him and he will be trying the hardest he can.
But still we have to beat Czech Rep first!
its gonna be tough, but i'm sure we can do it

We need Zhenya for one more year, even if its just for his doubles.
The answer still could be positive. But we need to beat Czechs first, I guess. Then with healthy Marat we will be favourites against anyone on any surface..
And so we did. The first step: done with Czechs. :D And it is espacially important that we did it without Safin and with 1/4 of Zhenia (I mean his physical condition) and 1/3 of Misha (damn flu).

I will post some articles below about this tie.
From official site:

Feb 6, 2003, after the draw:

Mikhail Youzhny leads Russia in Ostrava

Mikhail Youzhny, hero of last year's final against France in Paris, leads the Russian team in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie against the Czech Republic in Ostrava.

"But I am not the number one in our team. Marat Safin is not here because of his injury, but we still have Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the team. I am number one only for the first day," explained the world No. 27 after the draw ceremony, where he found out he had to play the second match on Friday against Radek Stepanek, currently ranked No. 55. "I beat him in Doha in two sets but it was really a bad match from Stepanek.”

Although being nominated as the team's number one for the first time in his career, Youzhny was not the main focus of attention at the draw ceremony. The nomination of Nikolay Davydenko, currently ranked No. 62, to play singles on day one was the biggest surprise.

The expectations were that Milan finalist Yevgeny Kafelnikov would be team leader, but the decision of captain Shamil Tarpischev was different. Davydenko would play the singles and Kafelnikov, together with Youzhny, was nominated for doubles against one of the tour’s most experienced pairings, Martin Damm and Cyril Suk. The Czechs are set to make only their second Davis Cup appearance together after a gap of eight years.

"I have to thank Tarpischev for nominating me. I am in a team for the first time and I should play a match. It is a big honour for me," said Davydenko.

But changes can still be made to nominations for Sunday's matches. “The fact that Yevgeny is not playing on Friday doesn't mean that he will not play on Sunday. We can still change a nomination," Tarpischev said. The Russian captain chose Davydenko, the winner of this year's tournament in Adelaide, for singles a few days ago, before the Russian team arrived in Ostrava on Monday.

"I don't feel healthy enough to play three best-of-five sets matches," said Kafelnikov, the only player who remembers the last match between Russia and Czech Republic in St Petersburg in 1994, when Russia won 3-2. "It was a tough match and this one will be very similar.”

Kafelnikov’s nomination only for doubles surprised his Czech opponents. Czech captain Robert Krechler said: “I knew about the possibility of Davydenko playing singles but I wasn't thinking much of it. But it is true that Kafelnikov was not the best Russian in a practise."

In Friday’s opening singles rubber, Davydenko will face world No. 10 Jiri Novak. The 2002 Australian Open semifinalist said: "I didn't think that Yevgeny wouldn't play at all. He was there practising with the team whole week. He is not a kind of player coming for a Davis Cup tie without playing in it. Maybe he is not in a good shape, maybe he doesn't believe in himself, who knows. But I still think that the Russian team is the favourite."


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Feb 07, 2003 0-1 after 1st match

Novak Gives Czechs Early Advantage In Ostrava

Jiri Novak won the first point for the Czech Republic in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round World Group tie against Russia in Ostrava.

The 27-year-old proved why he belongs to the world’s top 10 when he beat the 21-year-old Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the first rubber 64 46 61 61. The 2002 Australian Open semifinalist struggled a little bit during the first two sets, but at the end he was dominating the match in front of 5000 fans at the Palac Kultury Sportu in Ostrava.

Novak said: "I was nervous a little bit at the beginning because I have never played him and I really wanted to win the first point for my team.”

Davydenko found out in Ostrava that the atmosphere in Davis Cup ties is completely different to that at other tournaments. "I tried to play the same way as I play at other tournaments, stay calm psychologically but I wasn't able to do it the whole match. The matches in Davis Cup are completely different," said the winner of this year’s Adelaide tournament.

Novak broke his Russian opponent for the first time in the fourth game of the first set when Davydenko double faulted on the second break point. But the Czech number one then lost his serve and a few minutes later Davydenko had levelled at 3-3. Novak took the first set thanks to some good shots in the tenth game when the Russian failed to convert a 40-0 lead on his serve. "I had a good luck at the end of the first set," added Novak.

Davydenko, born in Severodonetsk in the Ukraine, continued to fight hard in the second set, putting a lot of pressure on Novak by attacking his backhand with some powerful shots. He led 2-0 and 4-2, but didn't convert any of four break points in the seventh game and needed four set points to wrap up the second set. "Davydenko started to feel the ball a lot better and played in the second set really better than me," Novak said.

Trailing 3-0 in the third set, Davydenko asked for a massage for his right shoulder, but the bigger problem was the fact that Novak had raised the level of his tennis, serving a lot better and coming to the net whenever possible. The Russian couldn’t find any answer to Novak’s solid game.

"I don't know why I didn't play my game in the last two sets. But it is true that Novak started to play better and started to control the game after the second set," Davydenko added. He didn't show any nerves in his Davis Cup debut during the first two sets,but in the end won just two of the last 14 games. After two hours and 38 minutes, Novak converted his first match point when a backhand by Davydenko finished in the net.


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Feb 7, 2003 1-1 after 2nd match

Youzhny Ensures Tie is Level Overnight

Mikhail Youzhny is becoming something of a five-set specialist. The 22-year-old Russian has played in six so far in his career and won five, his most recent victory coming against Czech Radek Stepanek in the second match of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas 2003 World Group first round tie between Czech Republic and Russia in Ostrava - 36 76(8) 67(6) 62 63.

At the end of the first day the score in Ostrava is tied at 1-1, Jiri Novak winning the day’s opening singles match against Nikolay Davydenko.

Stepanek had a great start in his Davis Cup debut in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. He lead 3-0 in the first set and had a breakpoint for 4-0 against Youzhny, the hero of last year's final in Paris-Bercy. The break of serve by the Czech No. 2 in the second game of the first set was, however, one of just two for Stepanek in the whole match which lasted four hours and 15 minutes. It wasn't enough.

"I felt pretty comfortable on the court in the fourth and fifth set having a lot of confidence," Youzhny said. Immediately after the match Stepanek could barely find the words to explain his loss. "I am sorry. I am not sad, but I know that I had some chances," he said after one of the longest matches of his career.

Stepanek won the first set but the 20-year-old Russian set up a 3-0 lead at the beginning of the second. The Czech No. 2, four years older than his opponent and ranked 55 on the ATP Entry Ranking, fought back to level the set at 3-3 and despite also leading in the tie-break failed to take a set point, eventually losing the tie-break 10-8.

"This was one of the most important points of the match. I tried to focus on the tie-break although I was 0-4 down," Youzhny said. Tie-break drama also resolved the third set – the home player supported by a noisy crowd turning the tables on Youzhny.

Ultimately, success for the younger but more experienced Youzhny was built on more aggressive play in final two sets. The Russian started to use his good serve and strong backhand more and more and Stepanek didn't have an answer to it. "I knew the best parts of his game were his movement and his backhand. I tried to attack some of his backhands but I wasn't successful enough. "I was little bit afraid to take the risk," Stepanek said afterwards.

With the tie now level at 1-1 the decision as to whether Russia can continue to defend last year's title will be made on Sunday. In tomorrow’s programme Czech pair Martin Damm and Cyril Suk will take on Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Youzhny in the doubles. After today’s marathon five-setter much will depend on how Youzhny recovers overnight. "Radek played his best tennis on this surface and I can probably thank him that he made Youzhny tired for Saturday's doubles," joked Czech captain Robert Krechler.


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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.


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Feb 9, 2003 2-2 after 1st reverse singles

Novak Dismisses Kafelnikov to Force Deciding Fifth Rubber

Argentina must wait a little longer to find out who its opponent in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quaterfinals will be. Jiri Novak easily beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov 62 63 76(6) in Sunday's first singles in one hour forty-five minutes, tying the score of the tie at 2:2.

The tie will be decided in the fifth match between two players playing in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for the first time in their career – Radek Stepanek (55th in the ATP Entry) and Nikolay Davydenko (62nd).

Yevgeny Kafelnikov was telling the truth at the draw and after the doubles when he said: "I am not ready for a best-of-five match."

Although he played the Milan final last weekend and won the doubles with Mikhail Youzhny in Ostrava, this best-of-five singles match was a bridge too far for Kafelnikov. When Mikhail Youzhny got a high fever during the night, the obvious replacement for the Russians was Kafelnikov. But from the first point of the match it was visible that all was not quite right with former world number one.

He lost his serve in the first game of the match, didn't move well and made a lot of unforced errors. Novak broke Kafelnikov for a second time in the seventh game when the Russian's forehand finished wide.

"I was the better one on the court from the beginning but for sure it was not Kafelnikov as we used to know him. I don't know what happened to him if he didn't want to play or what..." said Novak, who has now won the last two of their six meetings.

Kafelnikov tried to end the rallies as soon as possible by playing a lot of drop shots but except for two or three he was not successful at all. He didn't give enough power for his shots and moved around the court without energy so it was enough for Jiri Novak to play consistently.

The two-time Grand Slam champion "woke up" on the court in the middle of the third set when he was 03 down. He started to serve and move a lot better, giving Novak some trouble and recovering to 43.

"You have to be very careful playing a player like him beacuse these could be the turning points of the match.

"Fortunately I was really concentrating well today," Novak added.

He was two points from the win in the tenth game on Kafelnikov's serve but eventually converted his second matchpoint in a tie-breaker, taking it eight points to six.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov didn't make any comments about his match, telling the media to come to the press conference after the fifth match.


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Feb 9, 2003 deciding rubber

Davydenko Arranges Russia's Trip to Argentina with Dramatic Victory

Russia has begun its quest to defend the Davis Cup title in the best way and Nikolay Davydenko is the new Russian tennis hero. Davydenko, ranked No. 62 on the Entry Ranking, won the decisive fifth match of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie between Czech Republic and Russia when he beat Radek Stepanek, ranked No. 55, 16 76(4) 62 36 60.

The match was pretty important for both competitors, each playing the Davis Cup for the first time in their careers. "I am really very happy because this is one of the biggest days of my career. This tie was broadcast to Russia so now everybody at home knows not only Safin, Kafelnikov and Youzhny but also me", Davydenko smiled. It was only his second five-set match and the first he had won. "But it was so hard, not only physically but psychologically. I knew that if I lose my team lose, too."

But it was the Czech player who had a better start to the match. Serving and moving well on the clay court, Stepanek didn't give his opponent many chances in the first set. But Davydenko played very patiently. He gradually played more aggressively and with more power, started to serve well and his forehand was his killer shot. "I was a little bit nervous before the match but not when I stepped on the court. I was just surprised how well Stepanek played in the first set," Davydenko said.

"I felt pretty good at the beginning of the match playing some of my best tennis," Stepanek said. "The important thing was that I didn't convert some break points in the second set." The Czech tried to make Davydenko run but the Russian’s down-the-line shots and targeted angles were too much for him. Stepanek lost the tiebreak of the second set and the next four games in a row. "Davydenko played some incredible shots at that time", he said.

After losing the third set, Stepanek started to play more aggressively, carving a 4-1 lead in the fourth set, and with the support of 5,000 noisy fans behind him he won the set, making Davydenko run with his use of dropshots. But the Czech No. 2 lost all his energy and courage in the deciding set. No longer taking risks, he couldn't succeed with Davydenko making hardly any mistakes towards the end of the match.

The 60 result of the fifth set was probably too cruel for the home team – all the Czech Republic’s losses in Davis Cup since 1998 have been in a decisive fifth rubber.

Russia will play the quarterfinals in Argentina and Davydenko is an optimist. "Everybody in Russia thinks that we don't have a chance but I don't agree. Together with Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny we are a pretty strong team although Yevgeny Kafelnikov doesn't want to play singles in Davis Cup any more.” :eek:


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Some pictures

Russia's Davis Cup tennis player number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov serves to Czech number one Jiri Novak during their first round Davis Cup match in Ostrava on Sunday Feb. 9, 2003.
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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Russia's Mikhail Youzhny, right, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov both eye the ball ball before hitting an overhand smash against the Czech Reupbulic team of Martin Damm and Cyril Suk during their doubles match in the first round of the Davis Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Saturday Feb. 8, 2003.
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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Kafelnikov - in fine form in the doubles (Getty Images)
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Russian teammates hoist comeback hero Nikolay Davydenko. AP
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vaiva said:
Russia will play the quarterfinals in Argentina and Davydenko is an optimist. "Everybody in Russia thinks that we don't have a chance but I don't agree. Together with Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny we are a pretty strong team although Yevgeny Kafelnikov doesn't want to play singles in Davis Cup any more.” :eek:
I'm not at all surprised that Zhenya doesn't want to play singles anymore. Today's performance -- though he was put on the spot with Misha's illness -- demonstrates that. He's played too much, too long :( And he said in Milan that he wasn't planning to play singles in this tie.

I'm wondering if it was really a good thing that he continue playing singles this year . . . it's obvious he's not the same player he once was :(
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