Astana: Jan Hajek defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the opening singles Friday, giving the defending champion Czech Republic a 1-0 lead over Kazakhstan in their Davis Cup quarter-final. Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev was scheduled to play Lukas Rosol in the second singles.
Hajek saved a break point in the third game before breaking Kukushkin in the eighth and then serving out the first set. The Czech won five consecutive games in the second set and broke immediately in the third. Serving for the match, Hajek jumped to a 40-love lead and sealed the victory with backhand shot down the line on his first match point.
"Despite the scoreline, it was a tough match,"Hajek said. "We chose the right tactics for the match and it led us to success." Kukushkin, who beat Hajek to score the winning point in Kazakhstan's 3-2 surprise victory over the Czechs in the first round in 2011, couldn't challenge his opponent's solid game this time.
"Nothing worked with me today," Kukushkin said. "He played perfectly and gave no chances - he was returning every difficult shot. I tried to risk but made even more mistakes. It was not my day." It was the first loss at home for Kukushkin, who has a 12-6 record in the competition.
The Czech Republic is without Tomas Berdych, who has a shoulder injury. Their No. 2 player Radek Stepanek, who had a neck operation in January, was rested for the opening singles but is scheduled to play doubles on Saturday and may step in for a reverse singles match on Sunday.
The Czech Republic beat Spain in the final last year for its first title as an independent nation. Kazakhstan is looking for its first semifinal appearance. The winner of the best-of-five series will face either Argentina or France in the semi-finals in September.