Tennis

Kazakhs cut Czechs' Davis Cup lead

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP)

Yuriy Schukin and Andrey Golubev beat Radek Stepanek and Jan Hajek 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 in the doubles to cut the Czech Republic's lead against Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup quarterfinals to 2-1 on Saturday.

The defending champion Czechs took a 2-0 lead on Friday after Hajek beat Mikhail Kukushkin and Lukas Rosol downed Golubev in their opening singles matches on clay.

''The Kazakh pair played better, especially Golubev, who was the best one on the court,'' Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said. ''But we are still 2-1 ahead and we have all chances to win.''

Kazakhstan is the last team to beat the Czechs, upsetting the hosts 3-2 on debut in the first round of the World Group in 2011. Golubev downed Tomas Berdych and Kukushkin beat Hajek in the reverse singles then.

The sixth-ranked Berdych is missing this time because of a shoulder injury, while Stepanek was rested from the opening singles as he is playing his first competition since undergoing a neck operation in January.

Both team captains made changes for the doubles. Hajek substituted for Ivo Minar, while Golubev came in for Evgeny Korolev.

After rallying from a break down to win the first set, the Kazakh pair broke decisively in the ninth game of the second. They led by two sets by breaking Stepanek in the ninth game and saving four breakpoints in the next.

The hosts dominated the third set after an early break and sealed victory on their first match point, breaking Stepanek when Hajek failed to return Schukin's forehand.

''Tennis is the game where it's very important not only to create opportunities but also be capable to capitalize on them,'' Stepanek said. ''Our opponents did it better - they played much stronger and deserved the victory.''

The reverse singles will be held Sunday.

The winner of the best-of-five series will face either France or Argentina in September.

 



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