PRAGUE — The Czech Republic won the doubles Saturday to take a 2-1 lead over defending champion Spain in the Davis Cup final, moving one victory away from its first title as an independent nation.
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek rallied to beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to take the edge going into Sunday’s reverse singles.
Berdych and Stepanek improved their Davis Cup doubles record to 12-1 by converting their third match point in front of more than 13,000 fans at the O2 Arena, who blew trumpets, beat drums and cheered loudly between points.
“It’s incredible,” said Berdych, who closed out the match with an overhead volley. “It’s just one point; we’ll do everything for that.”
The sixth-ranked Berdych can clinch the best-of-five series in the first reverse singles Sunday with a victory over David Ferrer.
“It will be as difficult for us as for them,” Spain captain Alex Corretja said. “We need to win both. We cannot make a mistake.”
Ferrer is wrapping up the best season of his career in which he won a tour-best seven tournament titles. He has a 5-3 career record against Berdych. Stepanek takes on Nicolas Almagro in the final match.
“I’m ready to do it tomorrow,” Berdych said. “I’ll try to come with my strong game, and with the crowd on my back it would be a good combination to make it.”
The Czechs are seeking to complete a rare double just two weeks after the women secured the Fed Cup title in the same arena. No country has won both competitions in one year since the United States in 1990.
Spain is looking for its fourth title in five years, while the Czechs’ only victory came in 1980 as Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993.
The Czech pair broke Granollers for the first time to seize a 5-2 lead in the fourth set when the Spaniard netted a volley.
“I served well until the (fourth) set,” Granollers said. “But I couldn’t put in the first serve in that game.”
Since they teamed up for the doubles in 2007 in a playoff against Switzerland, Berdych and Stepanek’s only defeat in the Davis Cup came in a 5-0 loss to Spain in the 2009 final.
“We know what we are capable to do in Davis Cup,” Stepanek said. “And we also know that the doubles points matter and we played together so many times, so we have all the experience we can have.”
Coming off a big title at the ATP finals Monday, Granollers and Lopez took control early. Stepanek double-faulted twice for the Czechs to be broken in the second game of the opening set to trail 1-4. Granollers served it out at love.
The Czechs turned things around in the second set, breaking Lopez for a 3-1 lead, and then converted their fourth set point with a forehand volley from Stepanek.
Lopez was broken for the third time in the 12th game of the third set when Berdych converted a second set point with a backhand volley at the net.
Stepanek struggled with his serve again after five double-faults in the first set of his loss to Ferrer on Friday.
Berdych than needed almost four hours to overcome Almagro in five sets to tie the series.
“Tomas (playing) after a four-hour game finishing at midnight and coming so strong today, it just show the desire and hunger we have for the trophy,” Stepanek said. “Hopefully we can make it tomorrow.”
Kuerten edges Djokovic: in exhibition match in Rio: In Rio De Janeiro, retired three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 (9), 7-5 in an exhibition match Saturday.
More than 10,000 people packed Maracanazinho Arena for the indoor match on clay.
Coming off the ATP Finals title, the top-ranked Djokovic entertained fans by dancing and putting on a big wig to imitate the hairstyle of the 36-year-old Kuerten, a former No. 1 in the world in the early 2000s. Djokovic joined Kuerten for the inauguration of a public court in the Rocinha shantytown on Friday.
, and will play football before a Brazilian league match on Sunday along with Serbian countryman Dejan Petkovic, who starred for several Brazilian clubs in the last decade. Former Brazil stars Romario, Bebeto and Zico are expected to participate.