Tomas Berdych edged past Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in Prague to level the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final between the Czech Republic and Spain.
Playing in front of a lively home crowd, Berdych had an opportunity to close out Almagro in four sets with a break lead, but the Spaniard fought back, and won the ensuing tie-break to force a fifth set. Up 4-2, Berdych again relinquished a break advantage in the decider, but regrouped to break Almagro for the fifth time and serve out the match. He prevailed in three hours and 58 minutes.
“It's our first point and that's all. I'm extremely happy for that,” said Berdych. “To play with this crowd on my back is an amazing feeling. I was enjoying everything on court... I think that the human body is a really strong engine. I will give everything I have. I just need to get ready again. Tomorrow is another day.”
Berdych improved to 9-3 against Almagro overall and has won five of their six meetings this year, which include fourth-round victories at the Australian Open and US Open. Undefeated in his nine Davis Cup matches in 2012 (6 singles, 3 doubles), Berdych is looking to lead the Czech Republic its first title since 1980.
In the opening rubber, World No. 5 David Ferrer gave Spain a 1-0 lead by dismissing Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in just under three hours.
Ferrer improved to a 22-4 Davis Cup singles record as he struck 48 winners to 30 unforced errors. A strong finish to the first set and an early break in the second set put the Valencia native in charge of his 10th meeting with Stepanek. The Czech No. 2 rallied briefly when Ferrer served for the match at 5-2 in the third set, but the Spaniard closed out victory at the second time of asking.
“I played very good. I'm very happy with my game,” Ferrer said. “He played really good when he played back. It's not easy to play Radek on this type of court, because it's really fast. I received really good. Maybe this was the key.”
The 30-year-old Ferrer claimed his 75th match win in a career-best season that has seen him win an ATP World Tour-best seven titles and compete at last week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The right-hander played a pivotal role in leading Spain into the Davis Cup final, winning both his singles matches against the United States in September’s semi-finals.
Spain is bidding to win the Davis Cup title for the fourth time in five years and has won the coveted ITF men’s team competition five times since 2000. In the 2009 final on clay in Barcelona, Spain completed a 5-0 whitewash over the Czech Republic.