WORLD No2 Novak Djokovic was denied Davis Cup victory yesterday, after Radek Stepanek held his nerve to win the decisive rubber for Czech Republic against Serbia in Belgrade.
Trailing 2-1 going into the final day’s play, Djokovic beat 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 to set up a deciding match.
But Stepanek, 34, made light work of his singles match against 23-year-old Dusan Lajovic – a late replacement for injured former world No8 Janko Tipsarevic – triumphing 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to silence the 17,000-strong home crowd.
And Stepanek, who has won two grand slam doubles titles, including the 2013 US Open, feels helping his nation retain the Davis Cup is the highpoint of his career.
“To win two Davis Cup is my greatest achievement,” he said. “To defend this trophy means the world to us.”
Stepanek was in the same position last year, defeating Nicolas Almagro of Spain in four sets to bring home the trophy.
And the world No44 admitted he drew on the experience of winning that nail-bitter to deliver the vital victory for a second consecutive year.
“The match was the same, under the biggest possible pressure that can be,” said Stepanek.
“But I knew that I would want to use the experience from last year’s final against him.
“Besides the first game I controlled the match. I played in my best form ever this weekend.”
On Friday, Stepanek was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic, but Berdych later defeated Lajovic to level the overall score. Then, on Saturday, Berdych and Stepanek won their doubles match against Illija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic.