Czechs lead 2-1 against Serbia after winning doubles

By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic took a 2-1 lead over Serbia in their Davis Cup World Group semi-final on Saturday after Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek won the doubles against Nenad Zimonjic and Novak Djokovic.

The Czech duo fought back from a set down in the Belgrade Arena to win 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-1 and stay on course to reach their second successive final.

World doubles number three Zimonjic opened the encounter with an ace but served poorly throughout the contest, dropping four serves, including three in a row midway through the match, as the Czechs took control.

U.S. Open finalist Djokovic, back in action after pulling out of the opening singles rubbers on Friday through fatigue and illness, looked much the sharper home team player but could not stop the visitors from silencing the passionate home crowd.

Roared on by their own fans sporting trumpets, drums and Czech flags, Berdych and Stepanek produced a flurry of accurate volleys and passing shots to clinch the match after two hours and 38 minutes.

Berdych was particularly lethal in placing forehand winners between the two Serbian players while Stepanek served superbly and produced a barrage of outstanding returns.

The Serbians, chasing their first final after reaching the competition's top tier in 2008, have a tough task of turning the tie with Djokovic taking on Berdych in Sunday's opening reverse singles while Janko Tipsarevic meets Stepanek.

The winners will play France, who clinched the other final berth on Sunday after winning the doubles to take an unassailable 3-0 lead against Argentina.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)