THE opening day of the Davis Cup final in Prague went to script with David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych recording wins to have the tie level at 1-1.
THE opening day of the 100th Davis Cup final between the Czech Republic and Spain in Prague went to script with David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych recording wins to have the tie level at 1-1 heading into the weekend.
Both teams will make for a great story if victorious in the final with the Czech Republic looking for the rare Davis Cup-Fed Cup double, while Tomas Berdych and Petra Kvitova also won the Hopman Cup in Perth to start off 2012.
The Czechs have not won a Davis Cup title since doing so as Czechoslovakia in 1980. The closest since then was making the final in 2009, but that only resulted in a 5-0 whitewash against Spain.
Spain has been remarkably dominant in Davis Cup action over this century winning titles in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011. A win this year in the final would give the Spaniards a fourth win in five years even with the absence of world No. 4 Rafael Nadal.
Prague in the Czech Republic had every reason to be excited coming into the final fresh off seeing its women claim the Fed Cup in the same building just two weeks ago but Spain got off to a winning start when Ferrer proved too good beating Radek Stepanek in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
However, Berdych hit back with a hard fought five-set 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Nicolas Almagro to have things level at 1-1 heading into the doubles on Saturday that will see Czech Republic's Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol take on Spain's Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
The opening singles match got off to an ominous start that the Stepanek-Ferrer battle was going to be a long one, but it was the Spaniard that was creating the break point opportunities.
He had seven alone in the sixth game before eventually Stepanek held serve. However, it only seemed a matter of time and on his next chance Ferrer did break the Czech and then went on to claim the opening set 6-3.
Stepanek then had a horrid time trying to hold serve to open the second set and failed to do so after saving five break points with Ferrer taking the game in over 11 minutes.
After falling 1-3 down, though, Stepanek hit back hard in the second set winning three straight games but he couldn’t keep the momentum going with Ferrer hitting right back and taking out the set 6-4 to take a dominant hold on the opening rubber.
The world No. 5 didn’t have it all his own way in the third set but still claimed it 6-2 to give Spain the 1-0 advantage in the Davis Cup final. After the match, Ferrer was delighted with how he handled both Stepanek and the fast hard court.
"I played very good for much of the match and I'm very happy with my game to win in three sets. It's perfect and now we are a 1-0 up, but we don’t finish there because it's a very long tie," Ferrer said.
"It's not easy to play Radek on this type of court because it's very fast. I felt good, though, and I was very comfortable on the court. It's not easy because it's very fast, but I received very good."
Berdych then faced the task of trying to lift the spirits of his home fans to end the day at one-rubber apiece as he renewed his rivalry with Almagro that began at this year's Australian Open when the Czech felt the Spaniard deliberately pelted the ball at him when he was at the net.
Berdych was able to score the first break of serve in the eighth game of the opening set and then served it out to claim it 6-3 on the back of a huge serve down the tee.
It was then Almagro who broke in the second set racing to a 4-2 advantage and going on to serve the set out 6-3 to level things up at a set all making the Prague natives watching on from the stands nervous.
The crowd then got right behind Berdych and decidedly against Almagro, including yelling out some line calls coming from the stands, as the Czech broke the Spaniard in his first service game of the third set as tempers on both sides threatened to boil over and umpire Carlos Ramos struggled to maintain control.
Berdych went on to claim the set 6-3 and then immediately broke Almagro to start the fourth set, and then raced to a 3-1 lead but the Spaniard wasn’t done with yet. He won three straight games from there before things returned to being on serve heading into a tie-break.
Almagro dominated the tie-breaker winning the first five points before forcing a fifth-set 7-5. That woke up the big Czech world No. 6, though, and Berdych steadied to win the deciding set 6-3 to make it level at 1-1 after the opening day.
"It's one-all now and by the circumstances that we found ourselves in today there wasn’t any better position we could be in," Berdych said.
"I am extremely happy for that and we have opened the chance for us on Sunday now however the doubles match goes tomorrow. It's a good first step for us on the opening day.
"I was actually looking forward to the fifth set because I messed it up a little bit in the fourth. I gave him too much of an advantage in the tie-break and wasn’t able to come back, so I was really looking forward to that fifth set with this crowd on my back.
"It's just an amazing feeling and I was enjoying every minute on court."