The best possible scenario for the Slovaks has been realised after Dominik Hrbaty had defeated Mario Ancic to level the score at 1-1 after the 1st day of action in Bratislava.
Miloslav Mecir the Slovak captain had pulled a switch and named Karol Kucera to play in the 1st singles replacing the nominated Karol Beck, who had pulled with a knee injury, whether it was the knee problem or the alleged doping rumours surrounding Beck that prompted this decision is just speculation.
Ivan Ljubicic was as expected too good for Karol Kucera in the 1st match and to be honest this result was never in doubt. Kucera showed some flashes of his play when he was at his best, but his time has passed and "Ljubo" who is one of the best indoor players at the moment, had the match in his hand the whole way without ever being seriously troubled on serve, and was able to break Kucera easily and showed that he was a class above his opponent.
The 2nd match was huge for the Slovaks as Dominik Hrbaty and took on Mario Ancic, anything less than a victory for Hrbaty, would mean that the final would virtually be over on Day 1. Ancic has a very good record against Hrbaty, but this counts for nowt especially in a Davis Cup final and playing at home.
This match was a lot closer and more competitive than the first match, which alone made it a more enjoyable spectacle to watch. Hrbaty showed how much he loves the Davis Cup environment and how tough he is to play in this environment, the Croatian fans bouyant after Ljubo's win earlier were cheering on Ancic, but the Slovak crowd got a very good show from Hrbaty.
Hrbaty was serving well and Ancic was keeping with him initially until the breaker, which Dom took and then at 3-3, Hrbaty had a break point and converted it and then broke Ancic again to take it 6-3. It seemed the Slovak was going to win this in straight sets, but credit to Ancic he with the bad singles record in Davis Cup this year fought very hard, while he couldn't get any break points on the Hrbaty serve, he kept hanging in there and got it to the 3rd set breaker and was able to make a move on the Hrbaty serve and win it.
As the fourth set continued in the same way as the 3rd. Hrbaty was very strong on serve and Ancic through a mixture of defence and attacking play was hanging on, and then at 3-2 and a break point for Hrbaty. Ancic moves forward to the net, hits a reasonable approach shot and then Hrbaty hits an outstanding forehand pass on the run for the break and from there would not be denied.
The venue maybe small, but there was plenty of noise and atmosphere and showed the joyful qualities that Davis Cup has. Hrbaty was so animated on court which is not usual way and it was great to see with the gestures, big Goran Ivanisevic cheering and encouraging Ancic all the way.
Hrbaty played an outstanding match, his serve was excellent, his groundstrokes precise and even hit some topspin on that forehand and interestingly he moved to the net more than Ancic did in the match. Ancic for his part played quite well, but he just wasn't good enough to make inroads on the Hrbaty serve and at times was too passive in the match.
All to play for in the doubles now. Hrbaty has been nominated with Mertinak, but if there are changes to either or both nominated teams, then it would not be a surprise.