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Berdych-Stepanek put Czechs in front

PRAGUE, Nov 17, 2012, Reuters 1:24 IST
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek used a roaring home crowd to come back from a set down on Saturday, putting the Czech Republic 2-1 up over holders Spain and a win away from the Davis Cup title.

The Czech pair looked tired from the opening singles matches that went late on Friday but triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.

Spain's top duo of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez silenced the 14,000-strong crowd early on, cutting short a Czech rally in a crucial seventh game that helped them cruise in the first set.

But the Czechs shook off the slow start by racing ahead in the second set to get the crowd going again. A couple of unstoppable overhead smashes gave the Czechs the second set and they took control of the match by winning the third with a Berdych backhand volley and then easing through the fourth set. “They started really on a high... and hit incredible shots,” Stepanek said.

The Czech pair improved its record to 12-1, with its only loss together in 2009 when Spain trounced the team 5-0 in the final. World number six Berdych will hope to take that momentum into the first singles match on Sunday against fifth-ranked David Ferrer.

A win would give the Czech Republic its first Davis Cup crown in 32 years and end Spain's bid for a fourth title in five years.

On Friday, Berdych had brought the hosts level at 1-1 with a battling five-set victory over Nicolas Almagro.

Berdych used his booming serve to good effect and drew inspiration from the vocal home support to win 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3.

World number 11 Almagro pushed Berdych all the way and won the fourth set tie-break with one of his 21 aces but the Spaniard's brave resistance was finally broken by the 6ft 5in Czech.

“I messed it up a bit,’’ Berdych said of the fourth set. “I gave him too much of an advantage in the tie-break. So I was really looking forward to playing with this crowd at my back. It is an amazing feeling,’’ he revealed. Berdych delivered 13 aces of his own and was the first to break serve in the eighth game on his way to winning the first set.
But in the second, Almagro found his own serve and had a well-timed backhand winner that broke Berdych.

Berdych used his power game in the third set to force Almagro into a few costly mistakes, with the Spaniard committing 53 unforced errors in the 3 hour, 58 minute match.

Spain's top player Ferrer had beaten Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening match.

Results (final): 5-Czech Republic lead 1-Spain 2-1 (Radek Stepanek lt to David Ferrer 3-6, 4-6, 4-6; Tomas Berdych bt Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3; Tomas Berdych/ Radek Stepanek bt Marcel Granollers/ Marc Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3).

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