Of Czechs Davis Cup triumph, talent of Clarke and Pujara | Pakistan Today

Of Czechs Davis Cup triumph, talent of Clarke and Pujara

The Czech Republic used to be a part of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia until the iron curtain melted a couple of decades ago.
With a population less than that of greater Lahore, one would be forgiven for thinking that Czech tennis would not amount to a hill of beans. It would more than a little surprising therefore, for the sports fans, that this little central European country is the current holder of the two biggest team trophies in tennis, the Fed Cup for women and the Davis Cup for men. The Czechs have always had a strong tennis tradition dating back eighty years when the indomitable Karl Kozeluh gave Tilden and co all that they could handle. Then there was Drobny, the Wimbledon winner in 1953, followed by Jan Kodes, the 1973 winner. There was Ivan Lendl in the 1980s. Lendl won a number of Grand Slam titles but could never win Wimbledon. Martina Navratilova won nine Wimbledons plus a slew of others. Not bad for a country that had only one indoor court till the 1980s.
Last week’s Davis Cup triumph for the Czechs against Spain was not as big an upset as one would imagine, mainly due to the absence of Rafael Nadal from the Spanish team. Still, Spain had number five David Ferrer and number eleven Nicolas Almagro. They also had the big serving lefthander Feliciano Lopez who was much better than his 39 ATP ranking would indicate. On the fast court that the Czechs had prepared, Lopez would have been a handful, with his serve swinging away from the opponents’ backhand. But Captain Alex Corretja went with the rankings and Almagro came up short against both Berdych and Stepanek the veteran whose fifth match win is the stuff of legend.
Radek Stepanek is at the stage in his career, where most players hang up their singles game for a few years on the doubles circuit. He was primarily a doubles player, but good enough to reach a career high of number eight in singles. He won his first major at the Australian Open earlier this year partnering Leander Paes and at the age of 34 would not have been contemplating any heroics in singles. But a superb fifth match along with a doubles upset partnering Berdych over doubles favourites Granollers and Lopez was just enough to make Stepanek’s career highlight.
Radek Stepanek is an anomaly in today’s game of baseline trench warfare. He has a superb volley, a throwback to the players of the 1970s and attacks the net at every opportunity. This was something that the purpose built court was tailor made for. Although he could not get past Ferrer’s defence, he was just good enough for the doubles and the final singles. Thomas Berdych, the world number 6, also beat Almagro in five sets and the Davis Cup was back in Prague for the second time. They had won in 1980 with 20 year Ivan Lendl leading the way.
It is a measure of Michael Clarke’s recent form that inevitable, and futile attempts are being made with Donald Bradman. Clarke has made four double hundreds in 2012, something even Bradman had failed to do. Certainly, Clarke would be one of a small handful of batsmen at the apex of the game. The others would be Amla, Kohli and perhaps the two Sri Lankan maestros, Sangakkara and Jayawardene.
Clarke has the batting style of a real talent. Everything is easy for him. The reflexes and the eye are razor sharp and the ball invariably hits the sweet spot on his bat. Batting for him is more an exhibition rather than a contest. But to compare with Bradman, one would first have to negotiate one of the iconic statistics of sport, 99.94. That is Bradman’s batting average, almost twice that of Clarke’s. Case closed!
Australia and South Africa are locked in a titanic struggle for ascendency. It is a pity that this is a three Test series and with the first test hit by rain, it is, by Test standards, a shootout in the final two. Australia seem to be coming out of their trough. Their batting, anchored by Clarke, is looking awesome, with Hussey, Warner and Cowan looking good. The only question mark is Ricky Ponting, who is going through a lean patch and as it often happens, that is when batsmen get the unplayable deliveries. Kallis produced just the one, coming on to leg stump and moving away to hit off. Ponting ended up on all fours and would certainly be contemplating his future. His place should be secure for this series but he would have to produce at least one authoritative innings to keep his place in the team. It is quite possible that Ponting’s eyes and reflexes have lost their sharpness as batsmen of his age tend to do. Ponting has often been called Australia’s best batsman after Bradman. Certainly Michael Clarke, should he be able to maintain his torrid form, would have something to say in this regard.
India trounced England in the first Test match, with England’s batting failing to come to terms with the Indian spinners on the turning Indian tracks. England’s only solace would be a vastly improved batting performance in the second innings, which gives them hope of an improved performance in the remaining Tests. Skipper Cooke played a captain’s knock in the second innings, but needs for the rest of the batting to fire. Kevin Peterson looks vulnerable to left arm orthodox spin and Bell looked nervy in his first innings hoick first ball. The revelation on the Indian side looks to be Pujara, who seems to have cloned his temperament and technique to that of Dravid. Certainly he looked the part in his double hundred and unbeaten score in the second innings.

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One Comment;

  1. Boo said:

    "The Czech Republic used to be a part of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia until the iron curtain melted a couple of decades ago. "

    Bad start. Czechoslovakia split up years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and was an entirely independent event.

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