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Stepanek the hero as Czechs sink Spain to lift Davis Cup

ESPN staff
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Radek Stepanek won the decisive fifth rubber on Sunday © Getty Images
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Radek Stepanek became the oldest player in a century to win the decisive fifth rubber in a Davis Cup final as Czech Republic defeated defending champions Spain 3-2 in Prague.

The world No. 37 defied his inferior ranking to seal his nation's first victory in 32 years, beating world No. 11 Nicolas Almagro 6-4 7-6(0) 3-6 6-3 in the 100th Davis Cup final.

It came after David Ferrer had ensured the tie went down to the wire after a straight sets victory over Tomas Berdych earlier on Sunday.

The Czechs entered the final day in the driving seat after Berdych and Stepanek had given the hosts the overnight lead after a 3-6 7-5 7-5 6-3 victory over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the doubles on Saturday.

Having laid a medium-fast hard court at the O2 Arena in a bid to counter the Spaniards' clay-court prowess, it was all set up for Berdych to be the hero in Prague.

But despite a court better suited to his game and a fiercely patriotic home crowd roaring him on, Berdych looked flat as he stuttered to a 6-2 6-3 7-5 defeat. Ferrer, who ends the year with seven titles and a 76-15 record to his name, kept his side's hopes of victory alive.

With everything resting on the final rubber between Stepanek and Almagro, it was Stepanek who took first blood, grabbing a late break to snatch the opening set.

The Spanish No. 3 held his nerve, fending off break points early in the second set before breaking for a 3-2 lead, but he was pegged back by Stepanek for 4-4 before the Czech moved within one set of victory after romping through the tiebreak.

Almagro dug deep to win the third set and maintain Spain's chances of a fourth title in five years, but Stepanek edged closer to victory with an early break in the fourth set before seeing out victory.

It is the Czechs' first victory in the competition since they won as Czechoslovakia back in 1980, while it completes an historic treble as they became the first nation to win the Hopman Cup, Fed Cup and Davis Cup in a single season.

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