Ferrer plays Stepanek to open Davis Cup final
PRAGUE -- The last time the Czechs played Spain in the Davis Cup final, they were swept 5-0 on clay in Barcelona.
Three years later, the Czech Republic will play at home on a fast indoor hard court. Plus, Spain will play without injured star Rafael Nadal.
The Czechs hope to win their first Davis Cup title as an independent nation since the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia won its only title in 1980, when Ivan Lendl led the team to victory.
Defending champion Spain is looking for its fourth title in five years.
"So far, it's the biggest moment of my career," sixth-ranked Czech star Tomas Berdych said. "It is our goal to bring the trophy back (home) after so many years."
The 100th Davis Cup final starts Friday with Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic playing David Ferrer in the opening singles of the best-of-five series. Berdych will face Nicolas Almagro in the second singles match in the O2 Arena in Prague.
But captain Jaroslav Navratil is expected to bring in Berdych and Stepanek, who are 11-1 in Davis Cup doubles.
In Sunday's reverse singles, Berdych is scheduled to face Ferrer and Stepanek will play Almagro.
The Czechs are seeking to complete a rare double just two weeks after the women secured the Fed Cup title at the same arena. No country has won both competitions in the same year since the United States in 1990.
The fifth-ranked Ferrer is wrapping up the best season, which includes a tour-best seven tournament titles.
"When I play him (Stepanek), it's always a very close match," Ferrer said after the draw on Thursday.
Ferrer has a career 6-3 record against Stepanek and beat him in five sets when the two teams met in the Davis Cup final three years ago.
"I remember the final in 2009. It was an amazing match," Ferrer said. "This time, it's going to be a similar match on a different surface. But I have to play my best tennis to beat him."
Spain hasn't lost on clay in 12 years, but the hard court plays to the Czech players' strengths.
"I'll try to use the surface to play my aggressive tennis," said the 37th-ranked Stepanek. "Ferrer is known to be a big fighter, but anyone can be beaten."
Berdych is 4-1 against the 11th-ranked Almagro this year.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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