By Jason Hovet
PRAGUE, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Radek Stepanek put the defending champions Czech Republic 1-0 up in their Davis Cup semi-final with Argentina in Prague on Friday, cruising to a 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 win over Juan Monaco.
The Czechs are aiming for their third final in five years and Stepanek, fresh from winning the U.S. Open men's doubles title, got them off to a strong start.
After trading games in the first set, the Czech veteran won the tiebreak and took that momentum into the next two sets to roll over Monaco, who is Argentina's top player in the absence of world number seven Juan Martin Del Potro.
"Every point is important," Stepanek said of the fast start. "For us, the most important is three (points)."
World number five Tomas Berdych takes on Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the second of the opening day's matches.
The Czechs lifted the Cup in 2012 for the first time since Czechoslovakia won in 1980. Argentina, who lost to the Czechs at home in the semi-finals last year, have yet to win the Davis Cup despite four final appearances. (Editing by Toby Davis)