Prague: Radek Stepanek upset Nicolas Almagro in the final reverse singles to give the Czech Republic a 3-2 victory in the Davis Cup final, and its first title as an independent nation.
The 37th-ranked Stepanek beat his 11th-ranked opponent 6-4, 7-6 (7-0), 3-6, 6-3.
The 33-year old Stepanek, who displayed some fine play at the net, converted his second match point to send more than 14,500 noisy fans at the O2 Arena into wild celebration.
The victory means the Czechs completed a rare double just two weeks after the women secured the Fed Cup title in the same arena. No country has won both competitions in the same year since the United States in 1990.
The Czechs’ only victory came in 1980 as Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993.
Earlier, David Ferrer kept alive Spain’s hopes by beating Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the first reverse singles match Sunday to level the final at 2-2.
The fifth-ranked Ferrer won 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 to improve his career record against Berdych to 6-3. That means the best -of-five series will be decided in the final match between Radek Stepanek and Nicolas Almagro.
Ferrer, who is wrapping up the best season of his career having won a tour-best seven tournament titles, converted his first match point when Berdych’s forehand hit the net, bringing cheers from the boisterous section of Spanish fans at the O2 Arena.
“I’m very happy with my game,” Ferrer said. “I played very focused, very aggressive. I started really good. Maybe the key was I began really good.”
The Spaniard never seemed in trouble despite playing on a fast indoor hard court at the O2 Arena that was supposed to benefit his big-hitting opponent.
Ferrer broke Berdych early in each set to take control, cruising to victory in 2 hours, 25 minutes.
“I was always a few steps behind him,” said Berdych, who had been undefeated in the Davis Cup this year. “He was just playing too good today.”
Berdych was broken in the third game of the third set before producing a late but brief fightback to level at 4-4. But Ferrer proved too good to allow any drama, breaking again for a 6-5 lead and serving out the match at love.
It was Ferrer’s 76th win of the year. “It was the best season of my career,” he said.The Czechs are seeking to complete a rare double just two weeks after the women secured the Fed Cup title in the same arena. No country has won both competitions in the same year since the United States in 1990.
Spain, who are without the injured Rafael Nadal, are looking for their sixth title overall. The Czechs’ only victory came in 1980 as Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993.
Berdych spent more than seven hours on the court in the previous two days to win both his opening singles and the doubles, and it looked like fatigue may have finally set in at the end of the long season.
“Yes, he played a lot of matches,” Ferrer said. “He played five sets with Nicolas on Friday and four sets yesterday.”
Berdych, however, refused to blame the loss on his tough playing schedule.
“I was feeling really well,” he said. “That was definitely not an issue.”
Ferrer, who has been unbeaten in the Davis Cup since 2010, broke Berdych’s first service game to jump to a 3-0 lead. Looking troubled by Ferrer’s attacking play, Berdych didn’t win a single point in the Spaniard’s first two service games.
Ferrer started brightly the second set again, breaking Berdych with a forehand winner. He converted his first set point when Berdych could only return his drop shot into the net.
On Saturday, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek used a roaring home crowd to come back from a set down, putting the Czech Republic 2-1 up over holders Spain.
The Czech pair looked tired from the gruelling opening singles matches that finished late on Friday but overcame a slow start to triumph 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.
Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, who became the first Spanish pair to win the doubles title at the ATP Tour Finals for 37 years on Monday, silenced the 14,000-strong crowd early on.