Prague, Czech Republic – David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych were opening singles winners Friday, as the best-of-five 2012 Davis Cup final between reigning champion Spain and the host Czech Republic is all even at 1-1.
Friday's opening rubber in the 100th Davis Cup final saw the world No. 5 star Ferrer give the Spaniards a 1-0 lead when he handled fellow tour veteran Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on a fast indoor hardcourt at Prague's O2 Arena, where a capacity crowd of 13,000 was on hand. The dramatic Day-1 nightcap then saw the sixth-ranked Czech Berdych outlast world No. 11 Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 in just under four hours.
Berdych improved to 9-0 in Davis Cup play this year, including 3-0 in doubles, and 9-3 lifetime against Almagro with a clutch fifth-set performance.
The former Wimbledon runner-up lost the tightest set of the match in a fourth- set tiebreak, but bounced back in a big way in the final stanza.
Berdych broke for a 4-2 lead in the fifth, only to see a game Almagro break right back in the next game, but the Czech star broke again for a 5-3 advantage and then served out the late-night affair on his first match point when Almagro misfired wide on one final backhand return.
Almagro lost despite firing 21 aces, as he was broken five times, compared to only three breaks against Berdych.
Berdych is now 22-11 in his career Davis Cup singles, including a perfect 6-0 mark this year, while his fellow 27-year-old Almagro dropped to 8-3 in the prestigious competition.
Earlier Friday, Ferrer got past Stepanek to open the festivities.
A long, tight first set saw Ferrer get a big service break he needed, as the Spaniard grabbed a 5-3 lead and then consolidated the break with a hold in the next game to capture the 58-minute opening stanza.
An even tighter 68-minute second set saw Ferrer eventually notch another huge break for a 5-4 edge, and he then held in the next game to disappoint the Czech faithful, as Stepanek fell behind two sets to love.
The third set was mostly controlled by Ferrer, who ultimately prevailed in 2 hours, 58 minutes when Stepanek netted one final backhand at the net.
Ferrer outlasted Stepanek in five sets in the 2009 Davis Cup final in Barcelona.
The gritty 30-year-old Ferrer is now 22-4 in his career Davis Cup matches, including an 11-4 record indoors, while Stepanek fell to 11-11 in singles, including a 9-10 indoor mark in the international team event.
Saturday's doubles bout in Prague tentatively has a Spanish duo of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez taking on a Czech duo of Ivo Minar and Lukas Rosol, but most expect to see Berdych and Stepanek teaming up for the hosts in that one. Granollers and Lopez are fresh off their surprise title at last week's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, which concluded this past Monday.
Sunday's reverse singles in Prague call for Ferrer to battle Berdych and Almagro to take on the 34-year-old world No. 37 Stepanek.
Spain is playing without injured superstar Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined with knee problems since June.
The Spaniards are captained by former top-five star Alex Corretja, while the host Czechs are piloted by Jaroslav Navratil.
Five-time champion Spain has won three of the last four Davis Cup titles, including a 5-0 sweep of the Czech Republic in the '09 finale. The former Czechoslovakia captured its lone Davis Cup title in 1980, led by the legendary Ivan Lendl, who was in attendance on Friday.
Spain is 4-2 all-time versus the Czechs, including 2-0 against the Czech Republic. The Spaniards went 2-2 against the former Czechoslovakia in a series that started back in 1931.
The last road team to win the Davis Cup final was Spain in 2008.
Czech women captured a second straight Fed Cup title at O2 Arena just two weeks ago.