x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Stepanek win helps Czechs complete Davis Cup title defence

Straight-sets victory leaves home fans in Belgrade disappointed

Radek Stepanek reacts after winning his Davis Cup final match for Czech Republic against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in Belgrade on Sunday. Andrej Kucic / EPA
Radek Stepanek reacts after winning his Davis Cup final match for Czech Republic against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in Belgrade on Sunday. Andrej Kucic / EPA

BELGRADE // The Czech Republic retained the Davis Cup title by beating Serbia 3-2 in the final on Sunday after Radek Stepanek swept past Dusan Lajovic in the decisive singles match.

The Czech veteran beat the 117th-ranked Lajovic 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, converting his first match point with a volley to send about a thousand visiting Czech fans at Belgrade Arena into wild celebrations as they blew trumpets and beat drums.

Stepanek spread his hands on the court as Tomas Berdych and other Czech teammates jumped on him.

“This is an amazing moment,” Stepanek said.

The Czechs won their second straight Davis Cup title, with last year’s having been their first as an independent nation.

Lajovic, who had never played in the Davis Cup before this weekend, replaced Janko Tipsarevic, who missed the final with a heel injury.

He also lost his first singles against Berdych on Friday — his first career best-of-five-sets match — and found himself thrust into by far the biggest match of his life against Stepanek. The 23-year-old Serb started well, however, breaking Stepanek in the opening game of the match. But the 34-year-old Czech responded swiftly with two consecutive breaks to take a 5-2 lead.

Stepanek controlled the match from then on and broke Lajovic for 3-1 in the final set. He then added another before serving out the match.

Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic said his team’s chances of winning the title were crippled by Tipsarevic’s injury and a 12-month doping ban against Viktor Troicki, who helped Serbia win their only title in 2010.

“We could not find the real replacement for the two,” Bogdanovic said. “We will try the next year.”

The Czechs got the crucial point in Saturday’s doubles to go up 2-1. World No 2 Novak Djokovic then kept alive Serbia’s hopes by beating Berdych 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 earlier on Sunday.

“We both entered this match with a lot of tension,” Djokovic said. “I managed to break his resistance in the second set.”

Berdych was leading 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker when he sent wide a volley at the net. Then he lost a point on his serve, and Djokovic took his first chance to serve out the set.

Djokovic converted his first match point with an ace, bringing cheers from the 17,000-strong boisterous Serbian crowd at the arena.

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