Champion Czechs lead Argentina 2-0 in Davis Cup semi

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek were a pair of opening singles winners Friday, as the host and reigning champion Czech Republic opened up a commanding 2-0 lead over Argentina in their best-of-five Davis Cup semifinal.

The 34-year-old Stepanek, fresh off his doubles title at the U.S. Open last week, fired 13 aces and rolled past fellow former top-10 star Juan Monaco 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours, 33 minutes in Friday's opener. The tough Czech veteran piled up six service breaks, compared to three for the Argentine loser, while improving to 13-11 in his lifetime Davis Cup singles.

Meanwhile, the world No. 5 former Wimbledon runner-up Berdych capped the Day-1 festivities by holding off game Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in just over three hours on the indoor hardcourt at Prague's O2 Arena. Berdych ripped 13 aces and broke Mayer five times, while the Argentine settled for only three breaks en route to defeat.

Saturday's doubles tentatively call for a Czech tandem of Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely to face an Argentine duo of Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos, while Sunday's reverse singles currently pit Berdych against the 30th-ranked Monaco and Stepanek versus Mayer.

The formidable Berdych, now 25-12 in his career Davis Cup singles, and Stepanek will most likely play in Saturday's doubles for the hosts, as has been the recent custom for the Czechs.

Argentina is playing this week without world No. 7 former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.

The Czechs are captained by Jaroslav Navratil, while the Argentines are guided by Martin Jaite.

The Czech Republic captured its' first Davis Cup title by beating then reigning champion Spain in last year's final here in Prague, as the cagey Stepanek pulled out a dramatic fifth and deciding rubber at the O2.

Hard-luck Argentina is a four-time Davis Cup runner-up, including two years ago against Spain.

The winner in Prague will face the Canada-Serbia victor in the World Group final in November.