Wily Stepanek guides Czechs to another Davis Cup

Sun Nov 17, 2013 3:56pm EST
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By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic retained their Davis Cup title after Radek Stepanek ruthlessly exploited the inexperience of Dusan Lajovic in the decisive rubber to seal a 3-2 final victory over Novak Djokovic's Serbia on Sunday.

The Czechs, who became the first nation to retain the Davis Cup since Spain in 2009, lifted the trophy after Stepanek's 6-3 6-1 6-1 victory amid wild cheers by several hundred visiting fans in the imposing Kombank Arena.

Djokovic ensured the final went to the wire by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 7-6(5) 6-2 to level the tie at 2-2 but there was to be no repeat of Serbia's epic 3-2 final victory over France three years ago.

The world number two did not have the right support cast this time round with Janko Tipsarevic sidelined due to a foot injury and Viktor Troicki banned for missing a blood test in April.

The 117th-ranked Lajovic was thrown into the fray and had 17,000 noisy Serbian fans on their feet after he broke Stepanek, a former top-10 player now ranked 44th, in the opening game.

But that turned out to be the high point for the 23-year-old as his opponent highlighted the gulf in class between the two players.

"The match was the same (as last year's final), under the biggest possible pressure that can be," Stepanek, who beat Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the decisive rubber 12 months ago, said in a courtside interview.

"I knew that I would want to use the experience from last year's final. I controlled the match apart from the first game and I think I played in my best form ever this weekend.   Continued...

Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek returns the ball to Serbia's Dusan Lajovic during their Davis Cup World Group final tennis match in Belgrade November 17, 2013. REUTERS/Marko Djurica