For some years now, the tennis world is witness to the emergence of enormous talent in both men’s and women’s categories from Balkan nations and many other parts of Eastern Europe. It started with Russia, a little over 20 years ago, when a bevy of teenaged women tennis players began making their mark on the world tennis scene. The trend spread to other countries in Eastern Europe and there is no stopping now. There was time, not too long ago, when most tennis stars came from US, Western Europe and Australia. That has not stopped but the later breed of tennis players from east Europe are seen as more skillful. Wimbledon champion and world’s no.1 player comes from Serbia and the new US open champion belongs to Croatia. Besides, players from the Czech Republic have kept their country’s flag flying high as Davis Cup champions for the last two years and many men and women players occupy high world rankings. One look at the top-tier women’s list will reveal names like; Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radawanska, Simona Halep, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and many more. The same is true for men with players like Djokovic, Cilic, Berdych, Dimitrov, Gulbis, Dolgopolov and so on. All these players come from the eastern European block and their main challenge comes from Spain and France unlike in the traditional past, when US and Australia were the dominant force in world tennis. There was no surprise; therefore that Czech Republic recorded back-to-back Davis Cup victories in 2012 and 2013 after the Serbs kept the Cup in 2010. For a year though in 2011, Spain won the Trophy.
Until last Saturday, the Czech Republic had kept their hopes alive for a three-in-a-row Davis Cup triumph but their hopes were shattered by the loss to France in the doubles match. With both singles already won by France, the doubles’ victory has brought the curtains down on the Czech bid for the third consecutive Davis Cup victory. The French pair of J0-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet combined superbly to hand over a rare 4-set defeat to the formidable Czechs; Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek at Roland Garros in Paris. To be fair to the Czechs, Radek Stepanek played in pain as he suffered from a hip injury and his movements on the court were vastly impaired.
France began their campaign with the win in the opening singles on Friday, when Richard Gasquet defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-3 while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Lukas Rosol 6-2 6-2 6-3. On Saturday’s doubles match, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ensured France’s entry to the final by beating Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1. France made it 4-1 against the Czechs on Sunday when Julien Benneteau lost to Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-3 but Gael Monfils beat Lukas Rosol 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
The victory has taken France to the final of Davis Cup for the first time since 2010, when they lost to the Djokovic led Serbia. The last time that France lifted the prestigious Davis Cup was in 2001 and it was their 9th championship in Davis Cup history. Now they have Roger Federer to contend with in the same role for Switzerland in the 2014 Davis Cup final as Djokovic had done in 2010. Incidentally Federer won the first reverse singles match against Fabio Fognini in straight sets on Sunday at Geneva to ensure that Switzerland plays the final, which will be held during November 21-23 in the northern French city of Lille. Earlier, Federer had won the opening singles against Simone Bolelli and Wawrinka, who changed his mind and returned to the Davis Cup squad, defeated Fognini. Though the Swiss lost their doubles match, Federer’s reversed singles victory has put Switzerland in strong contention against France for the prestigious Davis Cup.