Tokyo: Reigning Davis Cup champions the Czech Republic powered their way to a 5-0 quarter-final whitewash of Japan after Sunday's reverse singles matches. The Czechs, chasing their third straight title, had already secured a fifth semi-final spot in six years after winning the doubles on Saturday to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in Tokyo.
Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely showed no mercy in winning Sunday's dead singles rubbers, however, with the holders facing a trip to either France or Germany in the semi-finals from September 12-14. Rosol beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 before left-hander Vesely swept past Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-4 for his first Davis Cup win in three attempts, in matches reduced to best-of-three with the results now academic.
Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil insisted his team was capable of capturing a first hat-trick of titles since the United States won the third of five in a row in 1970. "We have won the trophy the last two years so we have confidence," he told AFP after the visitors reached the semi-finals for the fifth time in the last six years without the services of Tomas Berdych.
"First we will see if Tomas can play for us. We have five months to prepare and we will see what happens after Wimbledon and the U.S. Open," Navratil added.
Japan's hopes were severely jolted when Kei Nishikori, who had propelled them into their first quarter-final under the modern format, pulled out with injury before a ball had been hit. Even without world number 5 Berdych, who opted not to play, the Czechs simply had too much firepower and guile.
"A lot of it came down to experience," said Rosol, who struggled for rhythm against the 268th-ranked Uchiyama as a thunderstorm rattled the roof of 2020 Olympic tennis venue.
"I didn't play my best tennis today," added the world number 40. "But it's important to win when you're not playing well and trying to survive."
Japan captain Minoru Ueda paid tribute to the Czechs for their ruthlessness. "They showed why they're the champions," he said. "Their focus and attitude in keeping their foot down was exemplary. They taught us a lot and I look forward to next year."
Radek Stepanek, who won the deciding rubber for the Czechs in the last two finals, beat Tatsuma Ito in four sets, while Rosol beat Daniel in five on day one before the Czech duo finished the job by winning the doubles.