For the second straight year Radek Stepanek clinched the Davis Cup title in a fifth rubber for the Czech Republic. Playing in enemy territory, the Czechs upended a Novak Djokovic-led Serbian team 3-2 in a tie that featured all one-sided, straight-set matches.
Down 2-1, Djokovic leveled the tie to start Sunday with a tough 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 win over Czech No. 1 Tomas Berdych. But Serbia, who was without Janko Tipsarevic (heel) and Viktor Troicki (suspension), had to pin its hopes on little-known debutante Dusan Lajovic to win it.
With his experience and guile, Stepanek routed the 23-year-old 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to seal the Czech’s third Davis Cup title following victories in 1980 (as Czechoslovakia) and 2012.
And Stepanek became the first player in history to win consecutive live fifth singles rubbers in a Davis Cup Final. He is only the third player to win two Davis Cup final live fifth singles rubbers, following Henri Cochet (FRA) and Fred Perry (GBR).
“I don’t think words can describe it,” said Stepanek. “To defend this trophy means the world for us right now. For our country, waiting 32 years for a second title, now we are one of the five countries who have been able to defend a title.
“We made history today.”
Czech coach Vladimir Safarik, a fill in for an ill Jaroslav Navratil, was equally elated. “It’s a dream,” said Safarik. “It’s a privilege to be on this team. To have Tomas and Radek on my team is something special. It’s amazing what they have achieved. It’s probably one of the happiest moments in my life.”
Djokkovic, who passed up the doubles – an event both Berdych and Stepanek played, said he wouldn’t be pleased if his team didn’t win for the home crowd in Belgrade.
“I played great tennis but look, this win and the win two days ago will not make me happy if we don’t win the trophy,” Djokovic said after his win over Berdych. “The last match is the most important one.”
Added Lajovic, “Right now I’m of course very disappointed,” said Lajovic. “This match was not just a match in my personal career but a match for my team, for my nation, and now I feel really disappointed that I lost. I was trying to give my best.
“Obviously that wasn’t enough today, but these three days have been one of the most exciting days of my career.”
CZECH REPUBLIC defeated SERBIA 3-2
Venue: Belgrade Arena, Belgrade, SRB (hard – indoors)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 75 61 64
Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 63 64 63
Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Ilija Bozoljac/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) 62 64 76(4)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) 64 76(5) 62
Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 63 61 61
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