PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: Tomas Berdych levelled the score on day one after a thrilling five-set encounter with Nicolas Almagro in the second singles rubber at the O2 Arena in Prague.
The Czech No. 1 had to find his best tennis to fend off the challenge from his opponent, winning 63 36 63 67(5) 63 in just under four hours.
The match, which finished at 11:45pm local time, will now test the Czech No. 1's ability to recover and play the doubles tomorrow.
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GAME, SET MATCH CZECH REPUBLIC 63 36 63 67(5) 63
Berdych* 63 36 63 67(5) 63 Almagro
Berdych moves to 30-0 with a nice backhand volley winner and tries coming to the net again only to be passed with precision by his opponent. Berdych gives himself two match points with a big first serve and then Almagro hits wide to give Berdych the match. The Czech clenches his fists in delight as both players receives hugs and high fives from their benches. Berdych will be relieved with the win and Almagro may just have tired his opponent out before the doubles tomorrow.
Berdych 63 36 63 67(5) 5-3 Almagro*
Some big points in this eighth game. Berdych gets his groundstrokes working to perfection and earns two break points at 15-40 on Almagro's serve. What a time to find some of your best play. The Spaniard saves the first with a deceptively paced ace and then Berdych looks to have worked himself into a position to hit a winner when he strikes a flat double-handed backhand cross court that hits the net cord TWICE before falling into the tramlines. Almagro hits another ace but can't win the game because Berdych is finding his flat, powerful game, forcing the error from his opponent. Almagro's second serve finds the back of the line and the crowd cries Out. Berdych wins the point to earn himself an opportunity to break and Almagro has a word with the umpire about the crowd much to the dislike of the home fans. He then fires a winner with a crosscourt backhand. Almagro challenges but it did indeed hit the line and now the Czech will serve for the match to level the scores on day one.
Berdych* 63 36 63 67(5) 4-3 Almagro
Every mistake from Almagro is now being greeted with screams of delusion from the Czech fans. The Spaniard gets very lucky with a net cord that drops inside the line to move 30-15 up but back comes Berdych with some brutal hitting to go to 30-30. He tries to keep his focus as the crowd chants what I can only assume is Go Tomas in Czech but he hits long to give Almagro a break point opportunity, which the Spaniard converts when Berdych fires long again. The Spanish section of the crowd is the one in full voice now.
Berdych 63 36 63 67(5) 4-2 Almagro*
Just when it looks like that break will come sooner rather than later Almagro finds an ace to get himself out of trouble at advantage Berdych in the sixth game of the fifth set. The Spaniard then nets to give his opponent another break point and he misses his first serve which sets up the break as Berdych forces the error with a good return. The crowd is going wild as it senses the end is in sight.
Berdych* 63 36 63 67(5) 3-2 Almagro
We could be in for a long one if they keep going like this. Berdych, finding more rhythm in his game now, holds with a string of good serves and finds the lines with his groundstrokes. We're getting to such a crucial stage of this match - one break soon will more than likely decide it.
Berdych 63 36 63 67(5) 2-2 Almagro*
The Spaniard continues his good form with an easy hold to level the scores in the fifth set and put the pressure back on his opponent, who definitely looks to be a bit flatter than his foe.
Berdych* 63 36 63 67(5) 2-1 Almagro
Much better serving from the big man and he holds to go 2-1 up in the fifth set. He seems to prefer serving from the end to the left of the umpire's chair.
Berdych 63 36 63 67(5) 1-1 Almagro*
If Berdych struggled to hold then Almagro made it look easy. Is that a sign of things to come? How they can still hit the ball with such ferocity is a mystery to me and shows what fantastic athletes they are. Almagro holds for the loss of one point.
Berdych* 63 36 63 67(5) 1-0 Almagro
Both players take a toilet break at the end of that tiebreak, which gives me time to wow you with some statistics. Berdych has won five of his last seven five-set matches and his most recent victory came in the Davis Cup semifinals in that crazy match against Juan Monaco. Almagro has won his last four 5-set matches, with his most recent victory also coming in the semifinals against John Isner. And noe back to the action. Berdych comes back from 15-30 down on his serve to lead 40-30 but then Almagro fires a winner past the big man to force deuce. The Spaniard earns a break point with another winner and Berdych is looking weary. This doesn't bode well for the hosts either way as he will have to play a doubles rubber tomorrow (presuming Navratil makes the usual change). Berdych saves the break point with a good second serve into the body that Almagro puts into the net. But the Spaniard earns another with a great passing shot at the net, which the Czech almost gets but in so doing nearly ends up in Alex Corretja's lap. Berdych saves again with a thunderous first serve but once again can't finish off his opponent. The Czech finally holds and the crowd is starting to thin as the clock goes past 11pm
FOURTH SET SPAIN 76(5)
Almagro gets the mini break straight away with a fantastic crosscourt forehand winner and then Berdych fails to deal with a return that drops on the line to fall 3-0 down in the breaker. Almagro in control with a 5-0 lead and it looks like this one is going all the way. Almagro frames the next return and then hits into the net before Berdych finds a mini-break back with a put away at the net. Berdych then hits long to give the Spaniard three set points at 6-3 (the score of the match so far). Almagro just hits wide on the first then hits into the net after a drawn out rally on the second. But now the man from Murcia has one on his own serve and he hits an ace to send this into a fifth set.
Berdych* 63 36 63 6-6 Almagro
You could hear a pin drop in the O2 Arena, such are the nerves of the home fans. At 30-30 both benches are on their feet trying to encourage their player. Almagro puts a routine forehand into the top of the net and his team put their hands to their heads in despair. Sometime's it's harder to be a spectator. The Spaniard finds almost the exact same spot of the net with a backhand and we are into a tiebreak.
Berdych 63 36 63 5-6 Almagro*
A sliced backhand from Berdych is called out and the Czech finds himself 40-15 down. Almagro hits a good second serve which Berdych can only put into the net and the Czech will be serving to stay in the fourth set after the change of ends.
Berdych* 63 36 63 5-5 Almagro
An ace to settle the nerves to start off the 10th game of the tightest set in the match so far followed by an unreturnable big serve gives Berdych a 30-0 lead. Another big serve, another long return and we're at 40-0. A forehand winner and we're fast approaching a tiebreak.
Berdych 63 36 63 4-5 Almagro*
An easy hold for Almagro after the crowd eventually simmers down. Carlos Ramos calls for "play time" - this is no child's play Carlos. This is the Davis Cup Final.
Berdych* 63 36 63 4-4 Almagro
Almagro fires that backhand of his centimetres wide of the left sideline and then more controversy as Berdych is judged to have hit long a shot which was actually proven to be on the line. They replay the point, despite Almagro's return of said shot going out, only for Almagro to win it. Berdych finds himself 40-15 up but his opponent won't lie down and works his way back to 40-30. Berdych holds with a punched backhand volley and the Czech team are all on their feet as are most of the fans. Crucial stage of the match.
Berdych 63 36 63 3-4 Almagro*
What a point! Almagro at 0-30 (again) after Berdych manufactures his approach to the net with skill and then drop vollies with class. Almagro, trying to up his first serve speed, is starting to hit more into the net but he still manages to come back to 40-30 and then Berdych hits long to give the Spaniard the edge.
Berdych* 63 36 63 3-3 Almagro
Berdych's turn to slip to 0-30 at the start of his service game now as he is struggling to put first serves in play. He puts a forehand long of the baseline to hand his opponent three break points. Almagro only needs one, as he breaks with a flashy crosscourt backhand. Game on.
Berdych 63 36 63 3-2 Almagro*
Almagro drops to 0-30 but comes fighting back (sound familiar?) before Berdych swats away a forehand winner at the net to gain break point. The Czech nets to bring about deuce and then can't control a 208 km/h Almagro first serve. Almagro does well to hold.
Berdych* 63 36 63 3-1 Almagro
Neither of these players has lost a singles rubber all year and in the case of the Spanish they have been 2-0 up at the end of the first day's play in their last seven ties. The last time they failed to win both rubbers on the first day they actually lost to France 5-0. Berdych holds with ease to make Almagro's comeback even harder in this match.
Berdych 63 36 63 2-1 Almagro*
As has so often been the case in this match, Almagro comes firing back to life and it's he who holds to love. A momentum swing?
Berdych* 63 36 63 2-0 Almagro
Another perfect game from Berdych as he holds to love. Not simply a case of firing down big serves though. He's in a groove now and looks to have the better of his opponent.
Berdych 63 36 63 1-0 Almagro*
Talk about the perfect start to this fourth set. Almagro disappeared for a toilet break at the end of the third set while Berdych sat calmly talking to Jaroslav Navratil. The Czech wins four points on the trot at the start of the fourth set to instantly break his opponent. Not sure there's a way back for Spain in this second rubber now.
THIRD SET CZECH REPUBLIC 63
Berdych* 63 36 63 Almagro
There's something about the set score 63 in this match. Again, it's just one break of serve that separates the two players and this time it goes the way of the Czech as he finds himself with three set points after Almagro skews a backhand well wide. He converts the first of them when Almagro nets a backhand volley.
Berdych 63 36 5-3 Almagro*
Almagro keeps himself alive in the third set and forces Berdych to serve it out with some more ferocious hitting. It looks like he's taken to this court very nicely indeed.
Berdych* 63 36 5-2 Almagro
Almagro doesn't look like he's going to give up any time soon and he forces the game to 30-30 with some dogged resilience. Another booming serve from Berdych gives the Czech game point but Almagro fires a forehand second service return winner down the line to bring about deuce. Another big serve from Berdych and then a mistake from Almagro - brough about by Berdych's power game puts the Czech one game away from a two-sets-to-one lead.
Berdych 63 36 4-2 Almagro*
Almagro back on song with his forehand in this game and he easily holds to mute the chants from the home crowd.
Berdych* 63 36 4-1 Almagro
Almagro claws his way back to deuce with another one of those lovely crosscourt backhand winners. There's something joyful about a good single-handed backhand. Berdych hits an ace and then Almagro finds the net with a wayward groundstroke to hand the Czech the game.
Berdych 63 36 3-1 Almagro*
An easy hold for the Spaniard and he finally gets on the scoreboard in the third set.
Berdych* 63 36 3-0 Almagro
Berdych plays a beautiful point at the net to move 30-0 up before firing down two big serves to consolidate the break and move 3-0 up.
Berdych 63 36 2-0 Almagro*
This is really getting going now. The Spanish fans delay the start of the next game with some vocal chants before Almagro nets with his backhand much to the delight of the Czech crowd. There is another roar of pleasure from the home fans as Almagro fails to get to a big Berdych forehand and then the Spaniard hits wide to slip to 0-40. This match is really ebbing and flowing now. Almagro saves two of three break points but then double faults and the crowd goes is on its feet.
Berdych* 63 36 1-0 Almagro
Having not faced a break point for a set-and-half, Berdych is really struggling to hold his serve. Down 30-40 Almagro thinks he hits a cross court backhand winner only for Hawkeye to show it was out. That was a long, long rally too. Another ding dong encounter and Almagro hits long to give Berdych the chance to finish off which he does with a pick up at the net.. but wait... no... just as the Czech has already gone to his bench the ball is called out and Berdych challenges. It's called in...but wait (AGAIN)... they have to replay the point. That has got the crowd going - that and the Spanish bench asking the fans to get behind their man. Berdych bangs down a big first serve and Almagro can't get it back in play as he walks to the change of ends with a smirk on his face.
SECOND SET SPAIN 63
Berdych 63 36 Almagro*
The man from Murcia keeps his cool and races out to a 40-0 lead with some finely struck serves. Berdych hits a forehand long and the second set goes the way of the Spaniard.
Berdych* 63 3-5 Almagro
Berdych saves a break point at 30-40 and the sweat mark on the back of his blue shirt is getting bigger and bigger. He's being made to work hard for this. He keeps himself alive in the second set with a couple of big serves.
Berdych 63 2-5 Almagro*
Almagro races to 30-0 and then Berdych hits a great drop shot which has the Spaniard scampering so much so that he ends up half way down the other end of the court. Almagro contniues his fine form in what is a bit of purple patch for the Spaniard and he consolidates the break to move 5-2 up in the second set.
Berdych* 63 2-4 Almagro
A glimmer of hope for Almagro. With the score at 15-30 as he hits a lovely cross court forehand winner, which passes the big Czech at the net to give himself two break points. Berdych saves the first with a big first serve but Almagro moves his opponent from side to side before firing a backhand crosscourt winner to earn his first break in this match.
Berdych 63 2-3 Almagro*
Almagro holds to love with a deft touch at the net with a stop volley on the forehand wing. The Spaniard is cruising on his own serve in this second set.
Berdych* 63 2-2 Almagro
A textbook backhand volley winner from Berdych at the net to move 15-0 up. For those of you who saw the pictures of him wearing the camera on his head in training then that was perhaps the reason as he kept his head perfectly still on contact. Almagro hits a great backhand winner down the line to move 30-30 before Berdych wins two points on the trot to maintain his record of not facing a break point (not even going to deuce on his serve) to hold again.
Berdych 63 1-2 Almagro*
Back-to-back aces for Almagro to move 40-0 up but Berdych forces the mis-hit from the Spaniard before the Czech misses. On serve in the second set.
Berdych* 63 1-1 Almagro
A lovely inside out forehand winner from Almagro to start the game but back comes the big hitting from the hometown hero. Boy can he strike a ball well. The high ball toss seems to linger in the air longer and longer before he smacks his serves - first and second - to hold once again with little trouble.
Berdych 63 0-1 Almagro*
The Friday evening atmosphere is gearing up nicely now inside the O2 Arena as finally the home fans have something to cheer about. Czech skipper Jaroslav Navratil shows off his catching skills as a wayward return from his player ends up landing in the palm of his hand. Almagro holds for the loss of just one point.
FIRST SET CZECH REPUBLIC 63
Berdych* 6-3 Almagro
Berdych moves 30-0 up with a couple of sweetly struck serves before Almagro hits a passing shot with the Czech at the net. The Spaniard fires wide to give the Czech two set points at 40-15. Almagro hits a winning return to put it at 40-30 before Berdych fires down an ace to clinch the set.
Berdych 5-3 Almagro*
And this was supposed to be a medium-fast court. The rallies are getting longer and longer. Maybe that's a tactic from Alex Corretja? Use his clay court player to tire out the Czech Republic's best team member. Just when I said it looked like neither player was going to break what should happen? Berdych gets one break point and converts with a dipping cross court forehand that passes Almagro at the net. He will now serve for the first set.
Berdych* 4-3 Almagro
At 30-15 Almagro gets the luck of the net cord but Berdych fires down another big serve to move to 40-30. A collision between a ball boy and girl right under Almagro's nose doesn't seem to fase the Spaniard, but Berdych holds again. So far neither player has looked like breaking serve.
Berdych 3-3 Almagro*
Almagro lets out a little cry of Vamos! as he holds with ease to level the score at 3-3 in the first set of the second singles rubber here in Prague. A lone trumpeter gives a rousing rendition much to the delight of the tub thumping crowd at the O2 Arena.
Berdych* 3-2 Almagro
A masterclass in how to serve there for the competitors in Serve Your Nation. A mixture of power and precision, Berdych holds with the only blot on the copybook being a scintillating backhand return winner from the Spaniard.
Berdych 2-2 Almagro*
Double fault or doble falta as they say in Spanish to start the fourth game here, but then Berdych fires his return of serve way beyond the baseline to put the score at 15-15. Berdych hits a peach of a forehand down the line to put the score at 40-30 to the Spaniard but Almagro fires down another big serve to hold. Dodgy shoulder? What dodgy shoulder...
Berdych* 2-1 Almagro
Berdych is a big man and the size of his quadricep muscles have left many an opponent quaking in his boots. The Czech continues to display his hard-hitting game to its best and holds with ease.
Berdych 1-1 Almagro*
Almagro starts his first service game with a big ace. Not known for his serving that is quite a way to begin. He errs with that lovely single-handed backhand of his to put the score at 15-15 before another thumping first serve puts him 30-15 up. In theory Almagro is playing with no pressure in this match. He can swing away to his heart's content and that is what he is doing as he hits a pair of winners to take the game.
Berdych* 1-0 Almagro
A brighter pair of trainers than Almagro's I'm not sure I have ever seen. A sort of pinky-orangey hue they appear like a flash across the court's surface as both players bludgeon these balls into submission in gruelling rallies. But it is the Czech No. 1 who settles his nerves with a solid service game win for the loss of just one point.
Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 16/11/2012
Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 16/11/2012