|Posted on September 19, 2009 at 4:48 PM|
POREC, Croatia (Reuters) - Czech Republic reached the Davis Cup final for the first time when Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych beat Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko 6-1 6-3 6-4 to open an unassailable 3-0 lead over Croatia Saturday.
They will travel to Spain, winners in 2000, 2004 and 2008 for December's final, most likely on clay, after the Spaniards took a 3-0 lead over Israel in Murcia Saturday.
"This is an unbelievable success for our country," Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil told Croatian TV. "We made it to the final after 29 years and I am exceptionally proud of our players who put up a great performance in all three matches."
The former Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup in 1980 by beating Italy with a team led by Ivan Lendl but this is the first time the Czech Republic have reached the final.
The Czech doubles pair won in two hours and 15 minutes in a contest that was much less difficult than their singles matches.
"It was really hard to play after the dramatic matches on Friday but the Czech players were better and I congratulate them on the well-deserved win," said Cilic.
Friday, Stepanek had put the visitors ahead by beating Karlovic 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-7 16-14 in a marathon opener in which the 82 games played equaled the highest number in a Davis Cup rubber since the introduction of the tiebreak in 1989.
Even Karlovic's record 78 aces were not enough to win an extraordinary match that had the fans on the edge of their seats at the Zatika Arena in the northern Adriatic town of Porec.
In the second singles rubber, Berdych needed three hours and 47 minutes to beat 15th ranked Cilic 6-3 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3.
The noisy Czech supporters again made sure Stepanek and Berdych felt at home Saturday and not even two delays caused by power cuts could spoil the atmosphere or disrupt them from playing at the top of their game throughout the doubles match.
The Czechs broke serve five times, saved both break points they faced and hit 64 winners to 11 unforced errors. They are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, with a 5-0 record.
The Czech Republic had beaten nine-time champions France and three times runners-up Argentina to reach the semi-finals while Croatia had got past the United States as they tried to reach the final for the second time in five years.
With Sunday's reverse singles rubbers now dead, Czech captain Navratil is likely to rest Stepanek and Berdych and give U.S. Open doubles champion Lukas Dlouhy and veteran Jan Hernych a chance after they were replaced for Saturday's match.