Czechs host Spain in Davis Cup fi­nal

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

PRAGUE

With Rafael Nadal side­lined with an in­jury, the Czech Repub­lic team hopes to com­plete a rare dou­ble this week­end when it takes on de­fend­ing cham­pion Spain in the 100th Davis Cup fi­nal.

Two weeks af­ter the Czech women se­cured the Fed Cup ti­tle at Prague's O2 Arena, To­mas Berdych and Radek Stepanek will try to equal the feat at the same venue. No coun­try has won both com­pe­ti­tions in the same year since the United States in 1990.

''Our fans are in the win­ning mood and we hope that we can leave this arena in the same way (as the Fed Cup team),'' Stepanek said. Even with­out Nadal, Spain is no easy op­po­nent. The Spa­niards re­cently have dom­i­nated the Davis Cup and look for their fourth ti­tle in five years. One of those vic­to­ries was a 5-0 sweep against the Czechs at home in 2009. This year, the team will be led by fifthranked David Fer­rer, who is wrapping up a year with a ca­reer-best seven ti­tles.

Fer­rer won two matches at the sea­son-end­ing ATP fi­nals in Lon­don last week, but still failed to qual­ify for the semi­fi­nals. He's look­ing for­ward to an­other chance to add one more ti­tle be­fore the off­sea­son. ''I'm very con­fi­dent with my game,'' said Fer­rer, who beat Stepanek in five sets in the 2009 fi­nal. That, he said, ''was one of the best mo­ments of my ca­reer.'' The sixth-ranked Berdych also qual­i­fied for the ATP fi­nals, where he went 1-2. He and Stepanek led the Czechs to vic­to­ries against Italy, Ser­bia and Ar­gentina on the way to the fi­nal. They hope to give their coun­try its first Davis Cup ti­tle as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion, hav­ing split from Cze­choslo­vakia in 1993. Cze­choslo­vakia won its only ti­tle in 1980, when Ivan Lendl led the team to vic­tory.

The last time the Czechs beat Spain was as Cze­choslo­vakia in 1971. But the play­ers said they learned a les­son in 2009 - and now have the home-court ad­van­tage.

''The fi­nal in Barcelona (in 2009) was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for us that we can learn from,'' Stepanek said. '' Our two big­gest ad­van­tages are that we have a choice of the sur­face and we have our fans be­hind us. And cer­tainly, they miss Nadal.''

Nadal has been side­lined with a left knee in­jury since a sec­ond-round loss to Lukas Rosol at Wim­ble­don in June. Rosol is on the Czech team but un­likely to play if Berdych and Stepanek are fit. A ca­pac­ity crowd of more than 13,000 noisy fans is expected, af­ter tick­ets sold out in a mat­ter of hours.

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