Reign in Spain as doubles pair help retain Davis Cup

It's Czech mate as the ever-improving Verdasco and Lopez find feat on clay
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The Independent Online

Spain retained the Davis Cup last night with a doubles victory here to earn an unassailable 3-0 lead over the Czech Republic.

After Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer's singles victories on Friday – the latter after coming from two sets and a break down to beat Radek Stepanek – Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez teamed up to beat Stepanek and Tomas Berdych 7-6 7-5 6-2.

The triumph prompted scenes of jubilation, Verdasco and Lopez collapsing to the court before joining their team-mates in a victory huddle.

The first two sets were extremely close but it was the hosts who had the edge at the Palau Sant Jordi, and they ran away with it in the third as the Czech pair realised the game was up.

Spain went into the tie as hot favourites and they secured the first break four games in. However, Berdych and Stepanek broke straight back and held serve all the way to the tie-break on the indoor clay surface.

Stepanek is one of the few players on the ATP Tour who still plays a serve-and-volley game and his skill at the net proved a useful asset for the Czechs.

Lopez is also a decent volleyer though, and, combined with the

power of Verdasco, helped the hosts to a 6-3 lead in the tie-break.

However, the Czechs hit back to level and then two points against the serve gave them a set point, but they could not take it and, when Spain engineered another chance, they came out on top after a superb rally.

Verdasco has a particular affinity for the Davis Cup after his five-set victory over Jose Acasuso last year clinched the trophy for Spain in their 3-1 win over Argentina.

That comeback triumph in a hostile atmosphere in Mar del Plata has often been credited as the spark for Verdasco's breakthrough this year, the 26-year-old reaching the Australian Open semi-finals and becoming a fixture in the top 10.

He failed to win a match on his debut at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London last week but was inspired yesterday, the weight of his shot frequently proving too much for the Czech pair.

And it was Verdasco who was the key player in the only break of the second set, as the Spaniards fought back from 40-0 down at 5-5 with five successive points. Lopez then wrapped up the set with a superb ace.

The third set began in dream fashion for the hosts with a break, and they simply piled the pressure on their beleaguered opponents, breaking again after a lengthy fifth game.

Stepanek held his nerve serving to stay in the match at 1-5 but Spain did not have long to wait for the ultimate glory, Lopez serving out to give the hosts their fourth Davis Cup crown in 10 years.

Last 10 Davis Cup Winners

2009 Spain beat Czech Rep 3-0

2008 Spain beat Argentina 3-1

2007 US beat Russia 4-1

2006 Russia beat Argentina 3-2

2005 Croatia beat Slovakia 3-2

2004 Spain beat US 3-2

2003 Australia beat Spain 3-1

2002 Russia beat France 3-2

2001 France beat Australia 3-2

2000 Spain beat Australia 3-1