- Davis Cup
Novak and Berdych wins level Davis Cup final
Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych won their opening singles matches to leave the Davis Cup final between Serbia and the Czech Republic all square.
Djokovic beat Radek Stepanek 7-5 6-1 6-4 while Berdych saw off World No. 117 Dusan Lajovic 6-3 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 56 minutes.
After retaining his World Tour Finals crown on Monday by beating Rafael Nadal in London to secure his fourth title in a row and extend his winning streak to 22 matches, Djokovic had admitted he was "exhausted in every way".
And his recent exertions after a gruelling season certainly showed as Djokovic was forced to scrap for the first set at the Belgrade Arena, eventually taking it 7-5 having been 5-2 up.
However the second set was far from a close affair, with the world No.2 winning it 6-1 as he threatened to run away with the match.
But Stepanek made Djokovic work for the third set, with the Serb taking his first of two break points in the ninth game when his opponent found the net. Djokovic returned to serve out the match, winning in two hours and ten minutes, giving Serbia a perfect start in the best-of-five matches encounter.
He is due to play Berdych in the Sunday singles after the withdrawal of his teammate Janko Tipsarevic through injury, and could also feature in Saturday's doubles.
"I'll see about the doubles after the match," Djokovic said.
"He's [Stepanek] a great competitor, he always plays at his best for his country. I knew that, so I tried to be aggressive.
"The first set was very close, but after that I felt better on the court. The first set was crucial, then in the second I was 5-2 up and played three bad games, allowed him to come back.
"It's the Davis Cup, I'm just happy we're playing at home, we had a full arena. Everybody is still warming up, it was crucial we had a victory from the first match to get the advantage."
That advantage was quickly wiped out by Berdych, however. The 23-year-old Lajovic was only playing because of Tipsarevic's absence, and acquitted himself well despite the straight sets scoreline suggesting otherwise.
Lajovic gave his all in front of the 17,000-plus crowd at the Kombank Arena but failed to force a single break point against Berdych, who came from 0-30 down to win the next four points and hold serve on five occasions.
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