November 18, 2012

Article at SportsNewsFirst

Czechs close in on Davis Cup title

THE Czech Republic is just one rubber away from a first Davis Cup victory in 32 years after Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych won the doubles clash with Spain.

THE Czech Republic is just one rubber away from a first Davis Cup victory in 32 years after Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych won the doubles clash with Spain on Day 2 of the 100th final in Prague on Saturday.

The Davis Cup final of 2012 was locked at one-rubber apiece after the opening day that saw Spain's David Ferrer dispose of Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and then Berdych record a hard fought five-set victory over his Spanish opponent Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

Stepanek and Berdych then decided to pair up in the doubles rather than Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol, and it proved a masterstroke as the Czech Republic's two top singles players proved too strong for Spain's Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.

The Spaniards started well claiming the first set 6-3, but then Berdych and Stepanek took control winning the next three sets 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to give the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup final heading into the final day on Sunday.

Even though Granollers and Lopez were in red hot form coming off winning at the ATP Tour Finals last week, Stepanek and Berdych have an outstanding Davis Cup record together and have still lost just once after their win over the Spanish pair.

Stepanek had to not only bounce back from losing his singles rubber to Ferrer on Friday, but also a poor service game to start the doubles. However, from there he played tremendously to team with Berdych to get the win for the Czechs.

"I had a bad first serve and our opponents played without any pressure, delivered incredible shots and served amazingly in that first set," Stepanek said.

"But we told ourselves there is no way they can keep playing like that and we did much better after that."

Berdych is no stranger to doubles success having partnered Petra Kvitova at the Hopman Cup earlier this year successfully, and while happy with the win on Saturday he knows he has a big job to do against Ferrer on Sunday.

"That's all we wanted today was to win this match, but we are still missing a lot," Berdych said.

"This was just one point and we have not won anything yet. We are just looking ahead now and we will do everything we can to try and win on Sunday."

The last day's play will see the first up singles match pitting Spain's world No. 5 Ferrer up against the Czech Republic's world No. 6 Berdych. Then if required, the 11th-ranked Spaniard Almagro will be up against Stepanek, currently the world No. 37.

If successful, the Czech Republic will win its first Davis Cup since doing so as Czechoslovakia back in 1980, but it would cap off a remarkable year with the nation already winning the Hopman Cup in Perth and then the Fed Cup title just two weeks ago also at the O2 Arena in Prague.

However, Spain will still be giving itself a good chance of winning with Ferrer and Almagro doing battle in the singles matches as the Spaniards try to win their fourth Davis Cup in the last five years.