Davis Cup creates some of the greatest memories in tennis and also the biggest lows, which is unsurprising due to the nature of the competition. It's not just about the individuals, they're playing for their countries having to work within a team environment in different ways.
In the 100th edition of the Davis Cup, it got the final it deserved going down to the 5th match where dreams are made or shattered depending on the outcome of the result.
As was stated in my Davis Cup Preview that Radek Štěpánek was the true heartbeat and leader of the team. These skills were apparent as he lead the Czech Republic to their first win as an independent nation.
Winners are Grinners
Unsurprisingly it was 1-1 after Day 1. David Ferrer who was the true star for Spain for the season going undefeated in live singles matches, the last time he lost a live rubber was to his nemesis Gael Monfils. Štěpánek didn't play too well, but he wasn't allowed to as Ferrer kept him back on the baseline and played the match on his terms running out a comfortable winner. Sure, the Lukas Rosolites were hoping that he'd play a role in the tie, but Jaro Navratil is known for his loyalty to these two guys.
Promoting the final
Tomas Berdych made some comments about Nico Almagro before the tie, depending on the viewpoint Berdych was either talking trash or stating the obvious that he was the weak link in this team especially on the low bouncing surface. Almagro played an excellent match and Berdych looked tired and heavy legged perhaps with the pressure that he needed to level the tie. Berdych eventually got through and there definitely wasn't a lot of love in the handshake, but two combative characters provides something different.
In the doubles was where Štěpánek's leadership skills thrived as he was the dominant partner as Berdych was struggling with tiredness. His scheduling before the final was pretty ordinary playing 6 out of 7 weeks, not everyone has the endurance levels of Ferrer. Granollers and the good Lopez Marc won the doubles world championship, even then on the surface Stepanek and Berdych were favourites who have known each other for a long time, that they don't need to play too often to get in the groove. Once they wrestled the momentum and Berdych improved while Štěpánek kept the level up to get it done.
Radek always smooth with the women
Czech fans were hopeful Berdych would be able to seal the tie in the 4th match but that was gone after the first game. Both he and Ferrer hadn't lost a Davis Cup singles match this season so something had to give. Ferrer played arguably his best ever match, it was one of those days where everything was working perfectly. He was seeing the ball like a medicine ball but striking it like a golf ball dominating from the baseline and moving Berdych around who was getting more weary over time. Ferrer just owned Berdych.
It all came down to the 5th match with the alleged weak link Almagro and the crafty Štěpánek who was dreaming of this moment as a child. What a performance under pressure from Štěpánek he played an outstanding match apart from a poor break point conversion rate.
For all the hooplah about the surface it wasn't so fast, the bounce was very low which is unusual for courts these days and it played into Štěpánek's game to expose Almagro who loves rhythm from the baseline. He was able to protect his forehand and keep Almagro off balance, who was very passive at times.
Štěpánek was getting tight at the end but managed to serve it out and create his greatest tennis moment. Not bad for a guy in 2002 who was struggling playing doubles, then makes it as a singles player with his awkward game in an era where the surfaces don't favour his game.
Spain fought hard as per usual, gave their best efforts but they've have dominated the Davis Cup in recent times and the historical significance of the former Czechoslovakia team of Ivan Lendl, Tomas Smid, Pavel Slozil and Jan Kodes who were in attendance. They defeated Argentina away in 1980 just as the current team in 2012.
2012 and 1980 Davis Cup winners
Once Jaro Navratil took over the captaincy, then Štěpánek came back to the team. Once they won promotion to the World Group defeating Switzerland with Federer and Wawrinka. It has been gradual progress and the rewards eventually game. There aren't so many opportunities to win Davis Cup especially if they have a 2 man team, so have to take them when on offer.
Yes, Berdych and Stepanek were the main men of the Czech team but Lukas Rosol, Minar and the others helped create the positive atmosphere within the squad. Most only the see the main guys on the court, but there are more than 3 people involved.
It will be interesting to see how long Steps can play singles for and Lukas Rosol if he can continue to improve will need to step up. That's for the later, now it's party time and the celebrations should go on for days