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By Erik Gudris

Tomas Berdych Davis Cup (November 16, 2012) -- Tomas Berdych may have described his opponent as the weak link on the Spanish team earlier in the week, but it was the big Czech who found himself pushed to the breaking point by Nicolas Almagro in the second singles rubber in the Davis Cup finals in Prague.

Both Almagro and Berdych stepped onto the court at the 02 Arena having never lost a Davis Cup singles match nor a five set match all year. With David Ferrer putting Spain ahead 1-0 in the opening singles rubber earlier in the day, both men either faced the pressure of trying to extend their team's lead, as was the case for Almagro or, in Berdych's case, make it all even heading into tomorrow's doubles.

Each player held serve during the opening games and felt out the other's groundstrokes on the medium fast hard court until Berdych earned the first break with a crosscourt forehand pass for 5-3. The tall Czech then stepped up to the line on the next game, and with an ace, closed out the set 6-3.

Almagro, who returned to the court to start the second set after having to replace a loose "Espana" decal on the back of his shirt, looked the more relaxed of the two despite the incessant cheering and music making from the partisan Czech crowd. Almagro ripped a backhand winner to break for 4-2 and with some big serving of his own eventually took the set 6-3 to level the match.

If the afternoon felt like it had an edge of tension running through it, it got even more intense during the second game of the third set when Berdych hit what looked like a line clipper that landed just behind Almagro. The ball was called out, then challenged by Berdych with the video review showing it in. But umpire Carlos Ramos ruled the point should be replayed, a decision that angered the Czech fans.

Almagro soon double faulted to hand the game and the break to Berdych who took a 2-0 lead. Berdych, despite being pressured in each of his service games, held on to his slim advantage to take the set 6-3.

Berdych continued his momentum in the fourth set as he reeled off eight straight points against Almagro who appeared on the verge of getting blown out. But a patch of unexpected bad play from Berdych saw him give up the break to eventually find himself at 4-all. During a changeover, Almagro refused to budge from his path as he walked to his chair. That forced Berdych to go out of his way not to bump shoulders with Almagro in yet another tense moment during the match.

The set winded itself into a tiebreak that saw Almagro leap out to a 5-1 lead thanks to more errors from Berdych. Though Berdych managed to narrow the gap, big serving from Almagro allowed him to close out the breaker and take the match into a deciding fifth set.

Berdych struggled to hold his own serve in the opening game of the final set and his tentative play from the baseline made it seem that Almagro might have the upper hand. But at 3-2, Berdych found his big power game again and ripped a down the line backhand return to break for 4-2.

But nerves came into play as Berdych dropped his serve right away to hand the break back. Almagro, who complained to the umpire about noises made during his service games, found himself under pressure again. Berdych, who broke back again with a crosscourt backhand winner, found himself serving for the match at 5-3.

If there was any lingering doubt that Berdych would be able to close things out, he answered them by bombing down several big serves that set up two match points. Almagro hit a final backhand well wide and with that, Berdych sealed a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory.

Almagro and Berdych shared a cordial if curt handshake up at net before Berdych celebrated his win in front of the delighted Czech crowd.

"It's our first point and I'm extremely happy about that," Berdych said afterwards.

Though he is not on the official schedule yet, it is expected that Berdych will play in the doubles tomorrow with Radek Stepanek as they face Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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