Radek steps up as Czechs write history
Originally published on: 19/11/12 00:00
With the two teams level-pegging at 2-2 going into the final rubber on the indoor hard courts of Prague’s O2 Arena, the 33-year-old Czech stepped up for his third best-of-five sets match in as many days and defeated Nicolas Almagro to become the first man over 30 years old to win a decisive fifth rubber in a century.
“I was dreaming about this my whole life,” said an emotional Stepanek, who dropped to his knees as his teammates rushed on to court and piled on top of him after his four set-victory over Almagro.
“We are standing here as a team, as Davis Cup champions, it’s amazing. We have written history today in our country. I can’t describe what I am feeling right now.”
Victory for the men saw the Czech Republic complete an historic triple swoop of team titles in 2012, having also won the Hopman Cup and Fed Cup in 2012.
“It’s amazing for such a small country,” added Stepanek, who was joined on court by all members of the 1980 Davis Cup-winning team, including Ivan Lendl, who won under the flag of Czechoslovakia 32 years ago. “For us it’s amazing [to have them here]. They’ve been our inspiration. Our idols. Unfortunately they weren’t with us in 2009 in Barcelona but they are here. They are legends and now we are joining them.”
David Ferrer had given five-time champions Spain the perfect start to the final, beating the eventual hero in straight sets, but Tomas Berdych helped right the ship with a five-set victory over Nicolas Almagro before he and Stepanek combined to beat Barclays ATP World Tour Finals doubles champions Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in four sets. Ferrer soon swung the momentum back towards the visitors after pummeling a weary Berdych in straight sets, before Stepanek broke Spanish hearts in the decider.
“It’s a very tough moment,” admitted Almagro. “I’m not happy. But the only thing we can do is congratulate the Czech Republic because they are the winners.”
Spanish captain Alex Corretja added that he was proud of his team but disappointed they will have to wait another year to bid for a sixth title in the competition. “All I ask is that [my team] give 100 per cent all the time,” said Corretja. “[But] I feel sad because I think we could have done it today.”