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17 November 2012

Berdych and Stepanek put Czechs on top


MATCH REPORT

Photo: Martin SidorjakTomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek (CZE)

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech duo of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek brought the crowd to life in the O2 Arena after a tremendous victory from a set down against Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.

The home pair, who have only ever lost one doubles rubber, kept up their amazing record with a hard-fought but well-deserved win in three hours 19 minutes much to the delight of the raucous home fans.

Berdych was slow to start but he soon got into the game and once he and Stepanek started firing on all cylinders it was one-way traffic for the Spaniards. It will make for an intriguing day tomorrow with both Czechs scheduled to play singles against David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro.

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GAME, SET, MATCH CZECH REPUBLIC 36 75 75 63

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 75 63 Granollers/Lopez
That's it! The Czechs move to 40-15 after Berdych hits a great forehand volley deep into the opposite court and past the reach of Granollers to earn two match points. Lopez saves the first with a good forehand swat at the net and then forces deuce with an amazing return winner on the backhand side, which flies past Stepanek for a winner. Granollers vollies into the net to bring up the third match point on Berdych's serve. The crowd thinks the Czechs have won when Stepanek puts away a smash but Lopez had challenged the call. Another big serve from Berdych and then a smash from the big man wins the match and he thumps a ball high into the rafters of the O2 Arena before thanking the crowd. Great doubles match.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 75 5-3 Granollers/Lopez*
A real test for Lopez and Granollers there with the former serving under immense pressure. The game goes to deuce with the Czechs playing well from the back of the court and Granollers poaching well at the front. On advantage to Spain, Berdych smashes a winner to take it back to deuce only to be passed by Lopez on the very next point for another Spanish ad. A reaction drop shot from Stepanek at the net has the crowd in raptures as the score goes back to deuce again. A third deuce for Spain and Lopez pings a winner off his forehand wing to keep his team's slim hopes alive in this match.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 75 5-2 Granollers/Lopez
The last time Spain came back from 2-1 down was in a World Group play-off against Italy in 2005. As the Czechs hold again with relative ease it looks like they will have to do just that if they are to win a sixth Davis Cup title. One more game and the Czechs will have it. Cue the Mexican Wave.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 75 4-2 Granollers/Lopez*
One error from both Spanish players and the Czechs go to 0-30 on Granollers' serve - that's the first time they have had such an opening on the bigger Spanish hitter. Granollers fires a terrible forehand into the very bottom of the net and it's 0-40 on Granollers' serve. Amazing. He has looked unbreakable so far in this match. Granollers half vollies into the net and the Czechs break. Beginning of the end?

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 75 3-2 Granollers/Lopez
Berdych holds his nerve and his serve to move ahead in this fourth set. Edge of the seat stuff though here.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 75 2-2 Granollers/Lopez*
And now the Marc Lopez serve. There is a sense of expectation from the crowd when the shorter Spaniard has the ball in hand. The Spanish race out to 30-0 though before a Granollers shot into the net puts the score at 30-15. A good rally for the Czechs and the Spanish challenge a call which is proven to be in to go to 30-30. Spain have game point at 40-30 and a long exchange of shots involving almost exclusively Berdych is ended by a Lopez smash into the net to bring about deuce. Granollers smashes into the court and try as he might Stepanek can't reach the ball before it bounces into the crowd and then Lopez passes Stepanek at the net to hold.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 75 2-1 Granollers/Lopez
Stepanek holds to love when Berdych puts a backhand volley away with ease.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 75 1-1 Granollers/Lopez*
A rare error on the Granollers serve as the Spaniard double faults but he soon has a 40-15 lead. Stepanek retrieves a wide second serve and then hits a forehand winner from far out to the right of the court but Lopez puts the next point away to win the game.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 75 1-0 Granollers/Lopez
Berdych back to serving first and that has worked well for the past two sets. Stepanek takes the score to 40-15 with a beautiful touch at the net, pushing a backhand volley inside out towards his captain. The Czechs hold.

THIRD SET CZECH REPUBLIC 75

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 75 Granollers/Lopez*
Stepanek is pumped and he is trying to gee up his partner as Lopez lobs long. Granollers fires a volley wide and the Spanish bench are trying to encourage their team-mates. 0-30 and Lopez deals with a great return from Stepanek to go 15-30. Berdych returns brilliantly and all Lopez can do is lift it high and Stepanek is on the end of it with a smashed winner. Two sets points for a 2-1 lead...Stepanek hits a return into the net on the first. Berdych takes control of a great rally and then hits a backhand volley crosscourt winner as the crowd erupts. Berdych stares at Alex Corretja as he walks back to his chair. Czech Republic in control.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 6-5 Granollers/Lopez
The Czech band brings the crowd to life between games and it seems to have had an effect on Stepanek. The 33-year-old plays out of his skin to hold to love. Spanish serving again to stay in the set.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 5-5 Granollers/Lopez*
Cracking atmos now. Stepanek glares at his opponents after winning the first point and the crowd goes wild. Lopez cuts off at the net to strike a lovely cross court winning volley and then Stepanek hits long to put the score at 30-15. Berdych gets his footwork all wrong and tries to bludgeon a forehand at the Spanish pair standing at the net and instead he hits low into the base of the net. Two more points for the Spanish and it's 5-5.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 5-4 Granollers/Lopez
Cries of Espana from the crowd not received well by the Czech fans but they can't do anything to put Berdych off his stride. The tall Czech is getting better and better in this match. Perhaps he was a little bit stiff from his four-hour epic which finished near 11pm last night! He holds to love so the Spanish will have to serve to stay in the set.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 4-4 Granollers/Lopez*
A hold to love by Lopez after Granollers thumps a smash away at the net from a scooped reaction shot by Stepanek. We could be heading for a tiebreak in the third set.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 4-3 Granollers/Lopez
And now it's the Czechs who hold with ease on Stepanek's serve. No signs of weakness from either team.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 3-3 Granollers/Lopez*
The Spanish come through a gritty game to level the scores once again. It's one rubber all, one set all and three-all. So tense now.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 3-2 Granollers/Lopez
Both teams playing much better at the net now and Berdych backs it up with some strong serves which Stepanek puts away with customary ease to hold.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 2-2 Granollers/Lopez*
Lopez tries the lob (again) but this time Berdych is up to the job and smashes it with a winner to make the score 30-15. Granollers puts away a winner at the net and then Stepanek fires long to hand the Spanish the game.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 2-1 Granollers/Lopez
A tight game and Lopez lifts the ball up and over and out. The diminutive Spaniard really loves a lob. And he's still beaming as he bounces to the chair. He reminds me of a cheeky chappy who everyone would be friends with at school.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 1-1 Granollers/Lopez*
Good serving again from Granollers but this time he is made to work hard for the hold with a couple of fast-paced rallies with some good play all round.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 75 1-0 Granollers/Lopez
Clever tactical decision from the Spanish to take the toilet break and stop the momentum. Berdych opens up with a double fault but soon the Czechs find their way back to 30-15. Another missed volley from Berdych and we're at 30-30. The Spanish work their way to deuce but the Czechs hit a pair of big smashes - one each - to hold.

SECOND SET CZECH REPUBLIC 75

Berdych/Stepanek 36 75 Granollers/Lopez*
This is really starting to build into an amazing atmosphere now. Stepanek smashes the ball at the body of Lopez and the ball flies into the Presidential box and nearly decapitates one Jana Novotna. The Grand Slam champ is on her feet cheering with delight. Granollers misses back-to-back vollies and it's three set points for the hosts. The crowd is lifting the roof of the O2 after every successful point. Granollers hits a winner at the net to save the first. A delightful rally ensues with Stepanek somehow retrieving a great lob from Lopez before putting away a winner down the line to save the second. Berdych nets a second serve return on the third and we're back at deuce. What a game! A good return from Stepanek and then a missed backhand volley from Granollers and the Czechs have a fourth set point. Berdych hits a good return and Stepanek intercepts at the net to take the second set and he scampers with a fist pump back to his chair. The Spanish take a toilet break.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 6-5 Granollers/Lopez
Ironically the weakest player on the court right now seems to be Tomas Berdych. The Czechs makes two errors and find themselves a break point down. Stepanek smashes well and Lopez can't get the ball back in play. Berdych makes up for earlier mistakes with a good volley and smash combo and then some more good net play from the Czechs saves the break. Now they will target Lopez in the next game.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 5-5 Granollers/Lopez*
Granollers' worst service game of the match so far - nerves perhaps? - but the Spaniards still hold for 5-5.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 5-4 Granollers/Lopez 
Berdych hits his first double fault of the final (singles or doubles) to slip from 30-15 to 30-30. Two winners at the net from Stepanek and the Czechs hold. Jaroslva Navratil gives them a polite round of appluase as they come to their seat.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 4-4 Granollers/Lopez*
The Spaniards hold to love as Granollers  continues his fine play at the net this time. Lopez will be relieved to hold after having been broken in his last service game.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 4-3 Granollers/Lopez
Stepanek falls to 0-15 and this could be a shaky start to the 7th game of the second set but the Czechs come racing back and move to 40-15. Granollers hits long and that's a good hold. Alongside us Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez look to be discussing backhand techniques.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 3-3 Granollers/Lopez*
Granollers really is the best player on the court right now and he ensures a comfortable hold with some more fantastic serving.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 3-2 Granollers/Lopez
A rapid exchange at the net and it looks like confusion from the Czech side but actually Stepanek hits a backhand volly into space to win it. That could be a key point. Stepanek with another winner and Berdych has game point. Lopez fires a winner down the middle and then Berdych half vollies long to hand the Spanish a break point chance with cries of Vamos from Juan Carlos Ferrero on the sidelines. A good second serve from Berdych and Lopez's lob return goes long. Granollers hits a great winner as Berdych leaves it and it lands just inside the side line. Great net play from Stepanek and the Czechs save the break point again with a solid volley. Granollers returns well again and it clips the net cord and flies past Stepanek at the net and lands inside the baseline. A terrible volley from Berdych and the Spanish break back.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 3-1 Granollers/Lopez*
Lopez looks like he is the player that the Czechs are targeting for the break. A lovely backhand from Berdych and Granollers can't get to it at the net to go 30-30. Petr Pala is live on Davis Cup Radio. Don't forget to email your questions to radio@daviscup.com. Stepanek hits a lovely crosscourt forehand and Lopez can't get there and it's the Czechs with a break point. Lopez hits a good first serve and Berdych can't get the return in play. Lopez nets a mid-court forehand and there's another break point opportunity. And now the Czechs do break after Granollers hits a fast exchange long.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 2-1 Granollers/Lopez
A better service display from Stepanek and the Czechs maintain some momentum in this set.

Berdych/Stepanek 36 1-1 Granollers/Lopez*
Clinical serving performance from Granollers and he really doesn't look like he's going to be broken today.

Berdych/Stepanek* 36 1-0 Granollers/Lopez
Berdych, serving much better than his team-mate, serves first this set and holds with ease.

FIRST SET SPAIN 63

Berdych/Stepanek 36 Granollers/Lopez*
Granollers continues his fantastic form with the ball in hand to hold to love and take the first set. The Spanish bench is on its feet. Could this be a case of history repeating? The Czechs had only lost one doubles rubber prior to this match - against Spain in the 2009 final.

Berdych/Stepanek* 3-5 Granollers/Lopez
Lopez  finds one baseline before Stepanek finds the other with a classy volly to move to 40-30 up and then the wily Czech smacks a smash into the court and it bounces over the Spanish heads and into the crowd. Granollers to serve for the set...

Berdych/Stepanek 2-5 Granollers/Lopez*
A lovely point to start the 7th game of this set. The Czechs switch from a good Lopez lob and then the Spaniard blasts a top spin forehand long. Berdych nets a backhand before another classy lob from Lopez puts the score at 30-15. Berdych passes down the line with his backhand to move to 30-30. The Czechs take the game to deuce with another winner from Berdych before the Spanish gain the advantage again only for Berdych to outhit Lopez in a battle of crosscourt shots. Stepanek nets and it's advantage Spain once before Granollers cuts off with a lovely backhand volley.

Berdych/Stepanek* 2-4 Granollers/Lopez
Better from Stepanek. His first serve finding the other side of the court and Berdych proving himself to be a rock at the net. Is this where the Czechs come back?

Berdych/Stepanek 1-4 Granollers/Lopez*
Granollers is really serving exceptionally well and he holds to love with almost unretunable first serves, which if they do come back in play Lopez can swat away like a pesky fly.

Berdych/Stepanek* 1-3 Granollers/Lopez
Berdych has no trouble holding serve as he gets that big ball toss working from the outset to put the hosts on the scoreboard for the first time in this match.

Berdych/Stepanek 0-3 Granollers/Lopez*
Solid service game from Marc Lopez and the Spanish hold to love to consolidate the break. The atmosphere has quietened a little from what was a real potent one in the O2. The Spanish fans are outnumbered and it is the minority who are happy at the moment.

Berdych/Stepanek* 0-2 Granollers/Lopez
Stepanek to serve first and it's another close game. The Czech veteran double faults to take the game to deuce before a Spanish error gives the home team the advantage. A lovely lob and then a great forehand down the middle from Granollers and then an error from the Czechs means it's now the visitors who have the advantage. Stepanek struggling on his serve and he double faults to hand the first break of the match to the Spanish.

Berdych/Stepanek 0-1 Granollers/Lopez*
It's Marcel Granollers to serve first and he starts proceedings with an ace. Nice. The Czechs scramble the next point before Granollers serves another ace past Stepanek. Granollers wins the next point with a shot at Stepanek's body but Berdych vollies past his man to put the score at 40-30. Lopez too good at the net and Spain win the first game. Crowd is loud today.

*Denotes server

Captain Alex Corretja (ESP) - 17/11/2012

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek (CZE) - 17/11/2012

Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez (ESP) - 17/11/2012

Captain Jaroslav Navratil (CZE) - 17/11/2012

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    3 : 2
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    O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic

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