Belgrade - The
Czech Republic retained the Davis Cup after Radek Stepanek beat
outclassed Serbian youngster Dusan Lajovic in the decisive fifth final
rubber in straight sets on Sunday.
The 44th-ranked, 34-year-old
Stepanek beat the 23-year-old Lajovic, world number 117, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1
in under two hours, handing the Czechs an overall 3-2 win.
hardcourt of the Belgrade Arena, the Czech Republic, playing the third
Davis Cup final in five years, scored a ninth straight victory in Davis
"I was under the biggest pressure that can be," said a
jubilant Stepanek. "We are one of only five teams that have defended the
"I want to say how proud I am to be with these lads. They
are absolutely great, they deserved to win the trophy," said interim
Czech captain Vladimir Safarik, who replaced an ill Jaroslav Navratil
for the final.
His counterpart Bogdan Obradovic admitted that his
emotions were "mixed" as 2010 champions Serbia "tried to do our best"
despite being weakened considerably.
Lajovic replaced 36th-ranked
Janko Tipsarevic, out with a heel injury, and Serbia also missed
76th-ranked Viktor Troicki over a doping ban.
Lajovic, who has
lost all four ATP-level matches he has played this year, started the
decisive rubber in high spirits, breaking Stepanek's very first serve.
his enthusiasm was short-lived as the Czech veteran, betting on
patience and changing the rhythm of his play at will, broke Lajovic's
next two serves to win the set.
Clad in his lucky blue t-shirt
emblazoned with a lion design -- which Andy Murray's mother Judy
described as "staggeringly bad" on Saturday -- Stepanek raced to take
the next two sets in style.
Casting desperate looks around him,
Lajovic let his game crumble and allowed Stepanek to enjoy the ovations
from a noisy group of Czechs in the sold-out arena.
"I controlled the rubber except in the first game, and I played in the best form of my life the whole weekend," said Stepanek.
Lajovic admitted he found it hard to predict Stepanek's moves.
"I think it was his biggest advantage in this match."
Serbia's world number two Novak Djokovic forced the decisive rubber as
he beat seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 for his 24th
victory in a row.
Propelled by a noisy home crowd, Djokovic relied
on his serve, while Berdych tried to indulge him in long exchanges,
combining a fast forehand with a wicked sliced backhand.
very emotional, both of us got into the match with a lot of pressure
because of the importance of the game," Djokovic said.
earned ten break points against none for Berdych in the first set and
finally converted his fourth set point for a 6-4 lead.
He went on
to take the second set in tie-break after letting off some steam and
destroying a racquet, and before taking the third set in style, 6-2.
Berdych admitted that Djokovic's victory was deserved.
"I tried to hold on to him from the beginning to the end but it wasn't enough," he said.
"He's in an excellent shape, he plays great tennis and moreover in front of such a crowd."
In Friday's singles, Djokovic beat Stepanek 7-5, 6-1, 6-4, and Berdych then saw off Lajovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Saturday, Berdych and Stepanek won the 14th of their 15 Davis Cup
doubles rubbers together as they swept Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic
6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
A year ago, the Czechs beat Spain 3-2 in
Prague for their first triumph as an independent country with Stepanek
again winning the decisive final rubber.
Former Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the cup in 1980.