Buenos Aires: Tomas Berdych defeated Carlos Berlocq in straight sets on Sunday to put the Czech Republic into the Davis Cup final against Spain.
Berdych had few problems with Berlocq, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to give the Czechs an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the semifinal. Berlocq filled in for Juan Martin del Potro, who missed the decisive reverse singles with a left-wrist injury. Argentina's Juan Monaco then won the last meaningless singles match, beating Ivo Minar 6-3, 7-6 (2) to make the final result 3-2 for the Czechs.
The Czechs return to the final for the second time in four seasons, and will host it in November. They will have a chance to avenge the 2009 final defeat to Spain.
"This is going to be the highlight of my career up until now," Berdych said of facing Spain. "It is going to be very difficult playing against Spain, the champion, but at least we are lucky to be playing at home."
Berdych was in control, save for a short lapse in the final set when he broken by the hustling Berlocq.
"I know that Carlos is a guy who wants to fight until the last point, and he was trying to do that," Berdych said. "But actually I still had a belief in myself, that I am the one who is a bit better, and feeling probably a bit better."
Del Potro, the former U.S. Open champion, defeated Radek Stepanek on Friday but was ruled out for Sunday by the Argentina team doctor who said the match made his injury worse. Del Potro has a history of wrist injuries.
Argentina was trying to reach its fifth Davis Cup final. It has lost all four, including last year against Spain.
There wasn't enough firepower with Del Potro absent and David Nalbandian — the team leader for several years — sidelined with an abdominal injury.
There were numerous reports of internal conflict on the Argentina team, with Del Potro supposedly unhappy since Martin Jaite was named team captain late last year. Jaite is Nalbandian's former coach, and some reports suggest Del Potro may not return to play for Argentina.
Argentina's chances faded quickly on Saturday. The loss in doubles to Berdych and Stepanek was followed by Del Potro's withdrawal, leaving only Berlocq — who has never won an ATP event — to face No. 6-ranked Berdych. Even Diego Maradona, cheering in the stands for the third straight day, could not inspire Berlocq on the red outdoor clay at Parque Roca.
Berdych won all three points for the Czechs. He beat Monaco on Friday 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, then teamed with Stepanek for a three-set win in doubles to set up his clincher on Sunday.
"To win three points in three days — especially in this place — I just feel great," Berdych said.
It was Berlocq's Davis Cup debut in singles after losing on Saturday in doubles with Eduardo Schwank.
"It was a tough match and I never stopped running," said Berlocq, who was hugged and kissed afterward by Maradona.
Berlocq played on adrenaline in the first set until he double-faulted to lose the eighth game and Berdych served out to win it 6-3. The sound of Argentine fans pounding drums and ringing bells began to fade, replaced by a small group of Czechs blowing vuvuzelas louder and louder.
In the second set, Berlocq missed two chances to break in the second game. Berdych didn't squander his opening in the next game, breaking Berlocq en route to taking the set 6-3.
Berlocq converted only one of 13 break-point chances in the match, with the more solid Berdych making good on five of nine.
Berdych led 4-1 in the third set but was broken before holding on to win 6-4.