Fer­rer to face Stepanek in Davis Cup fi­nal

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PRAGUE

The last time the Czechs played Spain in the Davis Cup fi­nal, they were swept 5-0 on clay in Barcelona. Three years later, the Czech Repub­lic will play at home on a fast in­door hard court. Plus, Spain will play with­out injured star Rafael Nadal.

The Czechs hope to win their first Davis Cup ti­tle as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion since the 1993 split of Cze­choslo­vakia. Cze­choslo­vakia won its only ti­tle in 1980, when Ivan Lendl led the team to vic­tory. De­fend­ing cham­pion Spain is look­ing for its fourth ti­tle in five years. ‘’So far, it’s the big­gest mo­ment of my ca­reer,’’ six­thranked Czech star To­mas Berdych said. ‘’It is our goal to bring the tro­phy back (home) af­ter so many years.’’

The 100th Davis Cup fi­nal starts Fri­day with Radek Stepanek of the Czech Repub­lic play­ing David Fer­rer in the open­ing sin­gles of the best-of-five se­ries. Berdych will face Ni­co­las Al­ma­gro in the sec­ond sin­gles match in the O2 Arena in Prague.

Ivo Mi­nar and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Repub­lic were se­lected to play Satur­day’s dou­bles against Mar­cel Gra­nollers and Marc Lopez, who won the ATP World Tour Fi­nals ti­tle in Lon­don on Mon­day.

But cap­tain Jaroslav Navratil is expected to bring in Berdych and Stepanek, who are 11-1 in Davis Cup dou­bles. In Sun­day’s re­verse sin­gles, Berdych is sched­uled to face Fer­rer and Stepanek will play Al­ma­gro.

The Czechs are seek­ing to com­plete a rare dou­ble just two weeks af­ter the women se­cured the Fed Cup ti­tle at the same arena. No coun­try has won both com­pe­ti­tions in the same year since the United States in 1990.

The fifth-ranked Fer­rer is wrapping up the best sea­son, which in­cludes a tour-best seven tour­na­ment ti­tles. ‘’When I play him (Stepanek), it’s al­ways a very close match,’’ Fer­rer said af­ter the draw on Thurs­day.

Fer­rer has a ca­reer 6-3 record against Stepanek and beat him in five sets when the two teams met in the Davis Cup fi­nal three years ago.

‘’I re­mem­ber the fi­nal in 2009. It was an amaz­ing match,’’ Fer­rer said. ‘’This time, it’s go­ing to be a sim­i­lar match on a dif­fer­ent sur­face. But I have to play my best tennis to beat him.’’ Spain hasn’t lost on clay in 12 years, but the hard court plays to the Czech play­ers’ strengths. ‘’I’ll try to use the sur­face to play my ag­gres­sive tennis,’’ said the 37th-ranked Stepanek. ‘’Fer­rer is known to be a big fighter, but any­one can be beaten.’’

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