The 2013 Davis Cup semifinal between the host and reigning champion Czech Republic and Argentina got underway Friday, as Radek Stepanek cruised past Juan Monaco in straight sets in the opening singles rubber to give the Czechs a 1-0 lead.
The 34-year-old Stepanek, fresh off his doubles title at the U.S. Open, fired 13 aces and rolled past his fellow former top-10 star Monaco 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours, 33 minutes. The Czech veteran piled up six service breaks, compared to three for the Argentine loser.
The best-of-five tie is being staged on an indoor hardcourt at Prague's O2 Arena.
Stepanek-Monaco will be followed by a match between former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych and Leonardo Mayer.
Saturday's doubles 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 tentatively pit the world No. 5 Berdych against the 30th- ranked Monaco and Stepanek versus Mayer.
The menacing Berdych is 24-12 in his career Davis Cup singles. He will also most likely also play in Saturday's doubles, alongside Stepanek, as has been the recent custom for the Czechs.
Argentina is playing this week without world No. 7 and former U.S. Open champ 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 veteran 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 the Spaniards.
The winner in Prague will face the Canada-Serbia victor in the World Group final in November.