PRAGUE // The Czech Republic won the Davis Cup after Radek Stepanek stunned Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the decisive rubber of the 100th final last night.
Stepanek, the world No 37, beat the 11th-ranked Almagro 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 52 minutes in a clash of the teams' No 2 players on the hard court of Prague's O2 Arena.
The Czech Republic were winning their first Davis Cup since gaining independence following a 1993 split with Slovakia. The former Czechoslovakia won the trophy in 1980.
The victory has also handed the Czechs a rare team double after their women lifted the Fed Cup in Prague two weeks ago - a feat last achieved by the United States in 1990.
In yesterday's key rubber, a wild home crowd of more than 14,000 fans was all that Stepanek needed to shake off the fatigue from Friday's singles and Saturday's doubles.
His game against a rested Almagro went with serves until Stepanek capitalised on a single set point to break the Spaniard for a 6-4 win in the first set.
The crowd got even louder as Stepanek, combining patience with aggression, topped up with put-away volleys, came back from 4-2 down in the second set.
He failed to convert four set points but then thrashed Almagro 7-0 in the tiebreaker.
Almagro fought back and held on to his serve to take the third set.
But Stepanek, red hot and propelled by the crowd, refused to bow and took the fourth and final set after breaking Almagro's serve once again.
In the first game yesterday, Spain's David Ferrer beat Tomas Berdych in straight sets.
Ferrer, the world No 5, needed just two hours and 25 minutes to see off the sixth-ranked Berdych 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
A jaded Berdych had no answer to Ferrer's greater consistency and was powerless to prevent the 30 year old winning 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 25 minutes.
"I played very aggressive," said Ferrer. "Berdych played a lot of matches [this weekend], five sets with Nicolas, yesterday four sets. "I played very focused and started very good. My first serve and forehand were very good; I hit a lot of winners. It was my best match of the year."
On Friday, Ferrer beat Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and Berdych then put the Czechs level after beating Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
In Saturday's doubles rubber, Berdych and Stepanek beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 for their 12th victory in Davis Cup doubles against a single loss.
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