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Five things about the Davis Cup final

Ivan Lendl watches Andy Murray during his third round match on Centre Court.
by Mark Hodgkinson
Tuesday 20 November 2012

Five things to take note of after the Czech Republic triumphed over Spain in the final of the 2012 Davis Cup in Prague...

1. Let us forget for a moment that Ivan Lendl (pictured above) is an American citizen, and celebrate what has been a fabulous year for everyone connected with Czech tennis, their finest since the Iron Curtain dropped off the rail. Lendl, Ostrava-born and Connecticut-based, was a member of the team which won the Davis Cup in 1980, and he was in Prague at the weekend as Czech players won the Davis Cup for the first time in 32 years.

To Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych's triumph over Spain, add the Czech success in the Fed Cup - with their team led by former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova - and Lendl's mentoring of Andy Murray, who this year became Britain's first male Grand Slam singles champion since the Edwardian era. Would Murray have won the US Open if he hadn't had Lendl in his corner? Perhaps not.

History plainly mattered to Stepanek, who said he has been inspired by the class of 1980: "They're legends and now we're joining them." It would be going too far to suggest that Prague is the new centre of the tennis universe, but this has been a good year to be Czech (or a Czech-born American).

2. The weekend in Prague confirmed that this has been The Year of the Thirty-Something. When Radek Stepanek beat Nicolas Almagro, he became the first man aged 30 or over to win a fifth and final rubber in a Davis Cup final - and that's some achievement, given that this was the 100th final. Both of this year's Wimbledon singles champions - Roger Federer and Serena Williams - are in their 30s.

Stepanek, 33, has just had the most successful year of his tennis life. At this year's Australian Open, he won his first Grand Slam title when he combined with India's Leander Paes to score the doubles trophy. And then this; for Stepanek, there could be no greater thrill on a singles court than winning the fifth rubber of a Davis Cup rubber. And he won the match by playing some shots; wanting to control events, he was not about to wait around for Almagro's mistakes. No wonder he was pink-eyed and emotional at the end. "I was dreaming about this my whole life. I cannot describe what I'm feeling right now."

3. There have been two memorable Czech facial expressions this tennis year. Ivan Lendl's non-expression and the joy on Radek Stepanek's face after winning what the Spanish call 'The Salad Bowl'.

4. So Lukas Rosol, the man who turned Rafael Nadal's grass-court world upside down at this year's Championships at Wimbledon, did not make it on court in Prague. Having been nominated in the doubles rubber, Rosol didn't play in the end, as the Czech captain had Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych play over three consecutive days (singles on Friday, doubles on Saturday, doubles on Sunday). Perhaps we will have to wait until next summer's Championships for Rosol's next big moment.

5. This was supposed to be the weekend when Spain showed they could do just fine without Rafael Nadal. And David Ferrer, who had the best year of his tennis life, certainly played his part, winning both of his singles rubbers, including registering a straight-sets victory over Tomas Berdych which levelled the tie at two points apiece and meant that Radek Stepanek versus Nicolas Almagro would be 'live'. Once again - his absence was also strongly felt at the Olympics and the US Open - Nadal was greatly missed.

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