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Super Czechs roll on

Prague, Nov 19, 2012, Reuters: 22:10 IST

A dream come true, says Stepanek on historic win

Radek Stepanek described Czech Republic’s Davis Cup triumph as a dream come true as celebrations erupted in the O2 arena and around the country after their thrilling 3-2 victory over Spain in the final on Sunday.

 The Czech Republic team celebrates its victory in the Davis Cup final in Prague on Sunday. AFPIt was their first Davis Cup triumph as an independent nation and Stepanek sealed the win, defeating Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in the final rubber. It came 32 years after Czechoslovakia won the trophy led by Ivan Lendl, who proudly watched this year's final with his former team-mates.

It also made the Czech Republic the first country to win the Davis Cup and Fed Cup team trophies for men and women respectively and the mixed Hopman Cup event in one year. "I was dreaming about it my whole life and now we're standing here as Davis Cup champions, it's amazing," said Stepanek, who along with Tomas Berdych, has carried the team since 2007 but lost the only other time the country has appeared in the final — a 5-0 drubbing by Spain in 2009 on the clay courts of Barcelona.

The pair played in all the matches but fatigue was not a factor for the 33-year-old Stepa­nek, ranked 37th in the world, who used all his experience to unnerve the 11th-ranked Almagro in the Spaniard's first final appearance.

Stepanek, who became the first man aged 30 or above to win a decisive fifth rubber in 100 years and has plans to play Davis Cup again next year, broke Almagro to claim the first set. After missing a few chances to break his opponent at the end of the second set, Stepanek managed to force Almagro into several errors in the tiebreak which he won 7-0. The beginning of the third set was tight but Almagro served well and managed to win it before Stepanek clinched the fourth to send the Czech fans into raptures as Queen's "We are the Champions" blared through the loudspeakers.

"I can't describe what I'm feeling right now," said an emotional Stepanek. "I came on the court with the mindset that I had to stay calm, hungry, motivated and concentrate... I was playing very aggressively today. I wanted to be the one who was active, who was controlling the game and it paid off."

The defeat was bitter for Spain, who were without the talismanic Rafael Nadal.
"These are very tough moments," Almagro told Spanish broadcaster ‘TVE’ after the defeat. "But we can't be down on ourselves in any way as we fought to the last moment. "We are runners-up in the Davis Cup, not what we wanted as we came here to win the title but we are leaving with our heads held high knowing that we did a good job."

The end of the season was bittersweet for Ferrer, who won a career best seven titles this year and claimed both of Spain's points against the Czechs. "I'm proud of the team. We fought to win here in Prague. But the Czechs were better," Ferrer said.

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