Radek Stepanek clinched the 100th Davis Cup final for the Czech Republic on Sunday after defeating Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in the decisive fifth rubber in Prague. It is the Czechs’ second Davis Cup triumph, and their first as an independent nation, having won the coveted ITF men’s team trophy for the first time under the Czechoslovakia flag in 1980 in a team led by Ivan Lendl.
David Ferrer had drawn defending champion Spain level at 2-2 after defeating Tomas Berdych in straight sets, but Stepanek held his nerve to edge Almagro 6-4, 7-6(0), 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 52 minutes.
“I was dreaming about it my whole life and now we’re standing here as Davis Cup champions, it’s amazing,” said Stepanek. “I had a lot of chances in the second set. I was playing very aggressive today; I wanted to be the one who was more active. Even though I lost the third set, I had no doubt about my tactics. I came on the court with a mindset that I had to stay calm, hungry and concentrated. That’s what I did tremendously well today.”
Playing his third match of the weekend, having crucially won the doubles rubber with Berdych in four sets on Saturday to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead, Stepanek took the opening set against Almagro with a service break in the 10th game, attacking the Spaniard’s second serve to force an error.
Almagro put Spain back in contention in the second set as he fought off three break points on his own serve before breaking Stepanek to lead 3-2. The Murcia native’s lead was short-lived, though, as Stepanek hit back to level at 4-4. Almagro went onto save three set points, one in the 10th game and two in the 12th game, but he had no answer to Stepanek’s aggression in the
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tie-break. The 33-year-old Czech was rampant and a backhand winner won the breaker 7-0 for a commanding two-set lead.
Stepanek squandered a 0/40 chance on Almagro’s serve at the start of the third set and was made to rue his missed opportunity as the Spaniard broke for a 4-2 lead before going onto claim the set. Stepanek quickly extinguished Spanish hopes of a comeback, though, breaking for a 3-0 in the fourth set. Almagro saved a match point with a backhand overhead in the eighth game, but Stepanek closed it out on serve as Almagro netted a backhand.
Ferrer had kept Spanish hopes alive earlier in the day by producing a masterclass to dismiss World No. 6 Berdych 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. The 30-year-old Ferrer recorded an ATP World Tour-best 76th match win of the season and remained undefeated in Davis Cup play in 2012. Spain was contesting the Davis Cup final for the fourth time in five years and was bidding to win the title for the sixth time since 2000.