David Ferrer staged one of the all-time great Davis Cup comebacks to defeat Radek Stepanek last night and put Spain in total control heading into day two of the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic.
Ferrer came from two sets behind to defeat his opponent 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 8-6 and leave his side needing only today's doubles victory to retain their trophy after Rafael Nadal got the Spaniards off to a flying start.
Nadal showed glimpses of the form he produced in the earlier part of an injury-hit year as he breezed past Czech Tomas Berdych 7-5 6-0 6-2, setting the stage for Ferrer to leave the Barcelona fans on their feet.
The home favourite had looked like being blitzed after a stunning start by Stepanek, who broke his opponent in the first game of the match and wrapped up the first set 6-1 with a superb backhand return winner.
There was more of the same in the second set as Stepanek began to mix more audacious drop-shots into his play, completely flummoxing Ferrer as the Czech moved into a 4-0 lead. Ferrer briefly rallied to raise the home crowd's hopes but Stepanek responded by closing out the second set 6-2 and at that point he looked odds-on for a straight-sets win to level the match.
But Ferrer clawed his way back, forcing a break of Stepanek's serve in the third game of the second set and, although he was later broken back for 3-3, regaining the belief that the match was not over.
A second break put Ferrer in command and the Spaniard stepped up to the challenge by serving out confidently to narrow the deficit to 2-1 before making inroads in the fourth set.
A break for 2-1 in the third game brought the crowd to its feet and when Ferrer double-broke for 4-1 the momentum appeared to have swung, with some concerns over Stepanek's fitness.
Ferrer was broken back once but then held out to serve out to love and take the match into a tight decider. Both men held serve with the only early break point falling to Stepanek in the eighth game, which he failed to convert.
Stepanek was made to pay in the 13th game of the set when an attempted drop-shot dribbled into the net and handed the crucial break to Ferrer, who nervelessly served out for one of the all-time classic Davis Cup comeback wins.