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Stepanek leads Czech Republic to 2012 Davis Cup title

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radek_stepanekThe year was 1980, the venue was Sportovni Hall in Prague, and the inspiration was provided by 20-year old Ivan Lendl, who almost single-handedly led Czechoslovakia to their maiden Davis Cup title. The clock fast-forwards 29 years and the now separated Czech Republic return to the Davis Cup Final for the first time in their history, only to be pummelled 5-0 by a dominant Spanish side, who were that year also the defending champions.

Back to the Future, and the 100th Davis Cup Final in the history of the sport returns to Prague where the Czech Republic held off the challenge of Spain to end the opening day of the tie on level pegging. Saturday belonged to the Czechs as Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych played for the second time in as many days to upset the Spanish team of Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers, winners of the ATP World Tour Finals earlier this month in London.

That brought us to Super Sunday where an exhausted Tomas Berdych, having played 7 hours of competitive tennis already this weekend took on the relatively fresher and fitter Spanish no.1 David Ferrer. Ferrer was majestic running away with the first two sets 6-2, 6-3 before holding off the late challenge of Berdych to level the tie at 2-2, winning the third set 7-5.

It was advantage Spain heading into the decisive fifth rubber as world no.11 Nicolas Almagro took on a nearly 34-year old Stepanek, ranked 26 spots below him on the ATP Tour.

The early exchanges between the two superstars gave ample indication that this was going to be a tight affair, and Stepanek benefited from having served first when the set reached its business end. Serving to stay in the first set at 4-5, Almagro produced three crucial errors to hand the first set to Stepanek on a silver platter.

The Spaniard threatened to bounce back in the second set, breaking Stepanek in the 5th game to nudge ahead, but the Czech broke back in the 8th game. Almagro had a chance to break again in the 9th, earning himself two break points, but Stepanek served and volleyed well on the clutch points to transfer the pressure right back on the Spaniard.

Once again serving behind in the 10th game, Almagro went down a couple of set points, but this time he was able to hang on to his serve, to level the set at 5-5. It was a case of deja-vu a couple of games later with Almagro serving at 5-6 this time once again saving two set points to force the second set into a tiebreak. Stepanek though refused to let the missed opportunities affect him, winning an epic first point which set the tone for the breaker which the Czech romped through to love to take a decisive two set lead.

With the tie seemingly all but over, Almagro produced a late charge, winning the third set courtesy a solitary break in the 6th game, en route to taking it 6-3.

Stepanek though quickly turned the momentum right back in his favour by breaking Almagro's first service game in the fourth set, and held on to that advantage to wrap up the match and the title for the Czech Republic in four hard fought sets 6-4, 7-6(0), 3-6, 6-3, much to the delight of the home fans.

An emotional Czech Republic side led by Jaroslav Navratil had ended his nation's 32 year wait for glory in an incredible year which also saw the Czechs win the Fed Cup and the Hopman's Cup, the first time ever in the glorious history of tennis that the same country has held all three team titles.


David Ferrer (ESP) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 63 64 64
Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 63 36 63 67(5) 63
Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez (ESP) 36 75 75 63
David Ferrer (ESP) d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) 62 63 75
Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 64 76(0) 36 63

File Photograph Copyright: Edwin Martinez