ASTANA, April 6 (Reuters) - Outsiders Kazakhstan stayed alive in their Davis Cup quarter-final against holders Czech Republic after winning the doubles rubber on Saturday.
The Czechs were looking to wrap up the tie after winning both of their singles matches on Friday, but Andrey Golubev and Yuri Schukin stunned Radek Stepanek and Jan Hajek 7-6 6-4 6-3 to take the contest into a third day.
Stepanek, who had not played since undergoing neck surgery in January to relieve stress on a nerve, teamed up with Hajek for the first time after his regular doubles partner Tomas Berdych pulled out of the indoor tie in Astana with a shoulder injury.
After losing the first set in a tie-breaker 7-2, the Czechs were gradually outplayed by the newly-made pair of Golubev and Schukin, who also won their previous doubles encounter in Davis Cup by beating Austria at the same venue in February.
“We’re a young team, playing against the Davis Cup champions and nobody thinks we can beat them,” said Russia-born Schukin, who has been representing the Central Asian nation for the past few years, just like his other three team mates. “But we battled hard for every single point and never thought of giving up.”
Kazakhstan are now hoping for another shock victory over the Czechs after beating them 3-2 in their only previous Davis Cup encounter in Ostrava in 2011 when they made their debut in the World Group as an independent nation.
On Sunday, Czech Lukas Rosol is scheduled to meet 156th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin in the first reverse singles while Hajek must face Golubev in the last rubber, but visiting captain Jaroslav Navratil said he might alter the plan.
“We have to sit down tonight and I have to decide who is coming in for tomorrow. I have to speak to Radek. Normally I would want to put him in for a match on Sunday,” Navratil told the Davis Cup website (www.daviscup.com).
The winner of tie faces France or Argentina, who are tied 1-1 after the first day of their quarter-final, in the semi-finals in September. (Writing by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow, editing by Pritha Sarkar)