On clay, at home, one would have to be insane to bet against the Spaniards repeating as Davis Cup champion. Although the Czech Republic proved to be a worthy opponent, logic prevailed. Spain secured the initial three rubbers to become the first country since Sweden in 1998 to successfully defend the trophy.
Yesterday, in the first rubber, Rafael Nadal faced Tomas Berdych. At five all in a tight opening set, Nadal finally broke to gain the upper hand. With nothing left to give, Berdych capitulated, Nadal won 7-5,6-0,6-2.
The second match of the day was a barn burner as Radek Stepanek tangoed with David Ferrer. At first glance, captain Albert Costa’s choice of Ferrer over Fernando Verdasco, Spain’s second best player and world number 9, seemed odd and a colossal mistake. Ultimately, it turned out to be a masterful gamble.
After Stepanek crushed Ferrer to carry the first two sets 6-1, 6-2, the Czech Republic appeared on its way to a tie, which would have made it a seriously competitive final. The only difficulty was that Ferrer had no intention of soiling his unblemished Davis cup clay court record. The Spaniard fought back taking the next two sets to push the match to a decisive fifth. Early on, Stepanek had opportunities to get the break. But, each time Stepanek got close, Ferrer shut the door. More than four hours into play, a string of errors by Stepanek allowed Ferrer to seize the break for 7-6. Ferrer went on to serve out the match and with a 1-6,2-6,6-4,6-4,8-6 victory, he remains undefeated on clay at 7-0.
Needless to say, the doubles was a must win for the Czech Republic. With Stepanek probably a little spent from the previous’ day marathon match, Spain was already favored from the get-go. The tandem of Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco turned away Berdych and Stepanek 7-6,7-5,6-2.
In the first set, after Verdasco riffled a forehand return up the line, Spain obtained a break for 3-1. However, with a couple of forehand mistakes by Verdasco, the Czech Republic erased the advantage. At 4 all, a great forehand winner by Berdych resulted in break point. But, with errors from their rivals, Spain guarded serve. So, the set was settled by a tiebreaker. With a spectacular return by Verdasco, Spain got a mini-break and stretched its edge to 6-3. After saving three set points, the Czechs earned a set point themselves. Still, the Czechs surrendered two consecutive service points, giving the Spaniards another set point. When Stepanek misfired on a volley, Spain bagged the first set.
The second set similarly was hard fought with neither team having a bite at break point until 5 all. Serving at 40-15, the Czechs made two forehand miscues resulting in deuce. Subsequently, Berdych had a forehand volley sail long handing Spain break point. The Spaniards capitalized when the Czechs misfired on another volley. With a strong game, Lopez punctuated the set.
With Stepanek’s serve wilting, the Spaniards opened the third set with triple break point. When Lopez thumped a forehand winner down the line, Spain obtained the break. Shortly after, Verdasco consolidated with an easy service game for 2-0. Again with Stepanek serving at 1-3, on Spain’s seventh break point chance, Verdasco gunned a forehand crosscourt winner extending the lead to 4-1. Up a double break, Spain cruised on serve as it went on to capture its fourth Davis Cup title this decade.