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Del Potro draws Argentina level with Czech Republic

JUAN Martin del Potro defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening reverse singles yesterday to draw Argentina level with host Czech Republic at 2-2 in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

"We're fighting for a dream and we're very close," the fifth-ranked del Potro said. The winner of the best-of-five series will face the United States or Croatia in the September 18-20 semifinals.

Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil made a last-minute change and opted for Radek Stepanek to replace Ivo Minar in the final match against Juan Monaco on the indoor hard court at CEZ Arena.

Stepanek had not been fit enough to play the opening singles because of pain in his knee following his fourth-round loss to Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon. But he joined Berdych in Saturday's doubles to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead by beating Jose Acasuso and Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

The big serving del Potro hit 18 aces Sunday and won 96 percent of the points on his first serve, 100 percent in the first set.

"Against Tomas, you have to play unbelievable," said del Potro, who improved to 6-2 in Davis Cup singles. "I had very good serve, returns, everything was good. Every part of my game was perfect," he said.

Del Potro said he appreciated being rested by Argentina captain Tito Vazquez on Saturday, rather than having to play three matches in three days like Berdych.


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