Tennis

Czechs hope to cash in on del Potro-less Argentina

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PRAGUE (AP)

With Argentina missing top player Juan Martin del Potro, the Czech Republic has improved its chances of winning their Davis Cup semifinal this weekend.

Also bolstering the Czechs' confidence is the reunion of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek for the first time this year. They played all five matches in last year's final in Prague and beat Spain 3-2.

Stepanek teamed with Leander Paes to win the U.S. Open doubles title last week. Stepanek had neck surgery early in the year.

''I'm 100 percent fit and ready to play all three days,'' said Stepanek, who returned from New York on Monday.

Even without del Potro, Argentina won't be a pushover. Led by Juan Monaco, the team reached the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, routing Germany 5-0 in the first round before overcoming nine-time champion France 3-2 in the quarterfinal.

''We have chances for sure,'' Argentine captain Martin Jaite said.

Carlos Berlocq, Horacio Zeballos and Leonardo Mayer will play alongside Monaco, the highest ranked Argentine at No. 30.

The Czechs are aiming to reach the final for a third time in five years.

''We're the favorite,'' Berdych said. ''We play at home, we play on the surface which we like. We have our home crowd, which helps us a lot and we have the strongest team possible. For us, the goal is to make three points.''

Berdych, who lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the U.S. Open's fourth round, missed the 3-1 quarterfinal victory at Kazakhstan because of an injury. Stepanek was not available for the first-round 3-2 victory in Switzerland.

Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely are on the Czech team but unlikely to play if Berdych and Stepanek remain fit.

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