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Davis Cup: Ferrer demolishes Berdych to force a thrilling climax

The super fast indoor carpet at the O2 Arena in Prague was custom made to give the hosts a decisive edge in the 100th Davis Cup finals. The pace off the court and the partisan crowd were meant to enable Tomas Berdych to clinch the winning point for the hosts, but Berdych seemed burdened by the weight of winning the iconic trophy for his nation and fell haplessly short of challenging the consistency of David Ferrer. The Spaniard played rock solid off the baseline to force his opponent into meek submission, for a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory in two hours and 25 minutes. Ferrer’s steadiness under pressure helped Spain draw level at 2-2 and pushed the tie into a final rubber to decide the winner of the championship. The match between Radek Stepanek and Nicolas Almagro promises to be a fitting climax to this evenly contested finale.

It was a must win rubber for the Spanish and Ferrer helped them to the best start possible, racing away to a 3-0 start. Berdych slipped into deeper trouble when he fell behind 15-40 in the sixth game, when the imminent danger finally awoke the dormant spirit of the gentle giant. He finally managed to bring his serve into play and ensure that he did not slip further behind. Retrieving that game energised the crowd and Berdych fed off that wave to quickly turn the tables in the seventh game. But Ferrer is a dogged fighter and he brought those qualities to the fore as he clawed his way back from 15-40.

Berdych tried all he can to recover the break, but Ferrer finally slammed the door with an ace to end the prolonged game in its ninth minute. The backhand of Berdych was causing the Czech problems and another couple of errors on that side left him two points from gifting the set to the Spanish. Ferrer was having no such problems and he drew Berdych wide before making the most of the space with a stinging forehand up the line winner to earn his first set point. Berdych sought to stay in it by running around to bring his forehand into play, but Ferrer was in no mood to give in and eventually the Czech star wilted. A forehand that landed just wide offered the Spanish a second set point. Under pressure, Berdych overcooked his forehand to lose the set 2-6.

Ferrer threatened to run away with the contest, but a big serve enabled Berdych to save break point in the second game. But Ferrer ran Berdych ragged at the baseline before clinching the break on a second chance with a thumping forehand winner from mid-court. At 3-0 in the second set, the home crowd was in a spell of stunned silence and the momentum was firmly with the Spanish who were threatening to hand Berdych his first Davis Cup defeat of the year and push the tie into a decisive final rubber. When Ferrer served out for a two set lead, Berdych was left with a mountain to climb to prevent the visitors from drawing level.

Berdych courted trouble again in the third game of the next set, when Ferrer passed Berdych with a well placed forehand cross court pass winner to gain two break points at 15-40. A scorching forehand cross court return winner on the next point placed Ferrer on firm ground. At 30-30, 2-4, Berdych offered Spain a virtual match point when he dumped a stretch volley in the net. But a couple of aces rescued the Czech as he survived by the skin of his teeth. As the desperate crowd egged him on, Berdych finally offered some real resistance in the next game. Ferrer blinked for the first time in the match, when he made two straight errors to allow Berdych to stay even at 4-4 in the third set.

Berdych’s flirtations with fatality continued when he stumbled to 15-40 in the eleventh game, but he courted his serve to rescue himself yet again from the brink to claw back to deuce. The backhand though was Berdych’s enemy throughout the evening and it let him down again to leave Ferrer with the opportunity to serve out the match. David Ferrer brought a spectacular end to his stellar season by serving out with ease as he handed Berdych his first taste of defeat in his seventh match for the Czech Republic this season.

The Spaniard’s victory leaves the title in the hands of Stepanek and Almagro who were scheduled to play the final rubber. Spain has been a dominant force in the Davis Cup this past decade – winning five times since their maiden triumph in 2000. The Czech team on the other hand has only tasted championship success just once, way back in 1980 when Ivan Lendl lead the team to victory.

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