- Davis Cup
Berdych pulls through to keep final in balance
Tomas Berdych overcame a fourth set wobble to ensure Czech Republic ended the first day of the Davis Cup final on level terms with holders Spain.
Berdych, expected to beat Nicolas Almagro on home turf in Prague, found himself under pressure to perform after David Ferrer eased to a victory in the opening rubber against Radek Stepanek. But, despite dropping the fourth set in the tiebreak, he gave the home fans something to cheer about with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 victory that ensured the final will go to a tense last day on Sunday.
"I messed it up a bit," Berdych said afterwards. "I gave him too much of an advantage in the tiebreak. So I was really looking forward to playing with this crowd at my back (in the final set). It is an amazing feeling.
"We opened the chance for Sunday. That's a good step for us."
Ferrer, the highest ranked player in the match, lived up to his billing with a comfortable victory over Radek Stepanek to kick off the final - getting the job done in emphatic fashion with an eventual 6-3 6-4 6-4 triumph.
Ferrer was clearly fired up from the off, and Stepanek had no answer for his groundstrokes and energy as he delivered an early 1-0 lead.
That put all the pressure on Berdych, who responded with a blistering opening set to cruise into the lead. He and Almagro then exchanged sets, before Berdych moved a break up in the fourth to put himself on the verge of victory.
But the Spaniard then fought back to set up a tiebreak - one Berdych threw away, dropping behind early as the pressure perhaps became too much for him to leave him stumbling into a deciding set.
The tension would not escalate any further, however, as Berdych got the break he needed and maintained his edge to see out the contest and leave things evenly poised heading into Saturday.
On Saturday, the Czech pair of Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol will try to overcome the Spanish duo of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in what could prove a crucial doubles encounter, setting up Sunday's singles where Ferrer's meeting with Berdych could prove decisive.