Czechs march into final

Stepanek turns hero with gritty performance

 
The former Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup in 1980 by beating Italy but this is the first time Czech Republic have reached the final.

The noisy Czech supporters gave their doubles pair plenty of support and not even two delays caused by power cuts could spoil the atmosphere in the Zatika Arena. With Sunday's reverse singles now dead rubbers, captain Jaroslav Navratil is likely to rest Stepanek and Berdych and give Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hernych a semifinal chance.

On Friday, Stepanek battled for six hours to beat Ivo Karlovic while Tomas Berdych won in five sets against Marin Cilic.  Stepanek had put the visitors ahead by overcoming Karlovic 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 16-14 in a marathon opener in which the 82 games played equalled the highest number in a Davis Cup rubber since the introduction of the tie-break in 1989.

The games total was just three short of the overall record for a World Group tie after world number 17 Stepanek achieved the key break of serve in the 29th game of an epic fifth set.

Karlovic, the tallest man in professional tennis, fired down a world record 78 aces but it was not enough to win an extraordinary match that had the fans on the edge of their seats at the Zatika Arena in the northern Adriatic town of Porec. "I have no words right now, it was like a lottery and I managed to seize my chances," said Stepanek after the fourth longest Davis Cup match, which lasted five hours 59 minutes.

In the second rubber, Berdych needed three hours and 47 minutes to beat 15th ranked Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Spain in final

Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez beat Israeli doubles specialists Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday in Murcia to put champions Spain through to their fifth Davis Cup final in ten years. Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer had opened a 2-0 lead for the home side with crushing victories in Friday's singles and the win for Robredo and Lopez gave Spain an unassailable 3-0 advantage.

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