ASTANA, April 5 Holders Czech Republic overcame the absence of their top two players, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, to take a 2-0 lead against Kazakhstan in their Davis Cup quarter-final on Friday.
Jan Hajek had little trouble disposing 156th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-2 6-4 in the opening singles before Lukas Rosol prevailed over world number 205 Andrey Golubev 4-6 6-4 6-2 7-6 to put the defending champions in command after the first day.
"It's not that easy to play the first match so I had to keep my focus and followed my plan for most of the match and it paid off in the end," 94th-ranked Hajek told reporters.
World number six Berdych was forced to pull out of the three-day indoor tie, played on clay at the National Tennis Centre in Astana, after injuring his shoulder at last week's Sony Open in Maimi, while 45th-ranked Stepanek was rested for the singles matches.
Stepanek, who has not played since undergoing neck surgery in January to relieve stress on a nerve, will have the chance to seal victory for the Czechs when he makes his competitive comeback in Saturday's doubles rubber.
"Radek wants to play tomorrow to finish our tie so I hope that they can finish it," Czech Republic captain Jaroslav Navratil said.
Berdych and Stepanek led the Czechs to their first Davis Cup title as an independent nation last year.
Kazakhstan, with all four of their players coming from Russia, shocked the Czechs 3-2 in their only previous Davis Cup tie in Ostrava in 2011 when they made their debut in the World Group as an independent nation but must produce a miracle to stage another upset this time round.
In other last eight ties this weekend, Argentina host France, a Novak Djokovic-led Serbian side take on 32-times champions United States in Boise, Idaho, while Canada face Italy. (Writing by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow, editing by Pritha Sarkar)