Stepanek's upset clinches first Davis Cup for Czechs
PRAGUE (AP) -- It's a job for two when the Czechs win Davis Cup finals.
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek gave the Czech Republic the title for the first time as an independent nation by beating Spain 3-2 in the final on Sunday. Each spent about 10 grueling hours on court, playing the opening singles, teaming up for the doubles and then completing the reverse singles.
Ivan Lendl and Tomas Smid did the same when Czechoslovakia defeated Italy 4-1 in the 1980 final.
"They've been our inspiration, our idols. They're the legends and now we're joining them," Stepanek said after clinching the title with a 6-4, 7-6 (0), 3-6, 6-3 upset victory over Nicolas Almagro in the last reverse singles.
Stepanek dropped to the court in disbelief before teammates Tomas Berdych, Lukas Rosol, Ivo Minar and captain Jaroslav Navratil jumped on him.
"I'm living a dream," said Stepanek, who wept openly. "We have been working very hard very hard for this moment. It was the biggest pressure under which I've ever played. Everything was at stake."
Berdych added: "This is a moment we'll never forget."
The Czechs' quest for the Davis Cup began in the 2007 World Cup playoff against Switzerland in Prague, with Stepanek and Berdych teaming up in doubles against Roger Federer and Yves Allegro. The pair saved a match point before going on to win the match and ultimately the series, starting the journey to this title.
"We've been dreaming about it since the series against Switzerland," Stepanek said. "Whatever it takes in the Davis Cup, we'll go through it."
Although Berdych rarely plays doubles, the two now have an excellent record of 12-1 in the Davis Cup.
On Sunday, the 37th-ranked Stepanek was an underdog against his 11th-ranked opponent. But he stuck to his attacking game on the fast indoor carpet at the O2 Arena, winning 41 points at the net.
"I was playing very aggressive today; I wanted be the one who is active, who is controlling the game," Stepanek said. "It paid off, even though I lost the third set. I had no doubt I was on the way."
Leading 4-2 in the fourth set, he dived to his right to produce a volley that Almagro was unable to return to go 30-15 up and rouse the crowd with chants of "Radek, Radek" echoing around the arena.
"It was an important moment," said Stepanek, who turns 34 later in November. "It gives us a great motivation for the next season."
Playing in his first final, Almagro said he learned a lot despite losing to Stepanek and Berdych.
"It was a fantastic experience," Almagro said. "It's a pleasure for me to be part of the team."
The victory was a sweet revenge for the Czechs after they were swept 5-0 by Spain in the 2009 final in Barcelona
Earlier Sunday, David Ferrer kept alive Spain's hopes of winning a fourth Davis Cup title in five years by beating Berdych 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 in the first reverse singles match to tie the final at 2-2.
Ferrer is wrapping up the best season of his career with a tour-best seven tournament titles. He converted his first match point for his 76th win of the year when Berdych's forehand hit the net, bringing cheers from the boisterous section of Spanish fans.
"We're sad at this moment," Ferrer said after Almagro's loss. "I'm very proud of our team. We were fighting to win here in Prague."
The Czechs beat Italy, Serbia and Argentina en route to the final. Spain, without the injured Rafael Nadal, had been looking for its sixth title.