Djokovic forces deciding rubber in Davis Cup final

Belgrade, Serbia ( - The Davis Cup final will be decided by a fifth and deciding rubber after hometown hero Novak Djokovic pulled Serbia into a 2-2 tie with the reigning champion Czech Republic on Sunday.

The world No. 2 and former top-ranked star handled world No. 7 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 in the first reverse singles rubber on Day 3 of the World Group final. The champion Czechs headed into Sunday with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five clash after their doubles tandem of Berdych and Radek Stepanek bested a Serbian duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), Saturday on the indoor hardcourt at Kombank Arena.

The 2013 Davis Cup champion will be decided in a final match between the 34- year-old Stepanek and 23-year-old Serb Dusan Lajovic, who replaced injured former top-10 star Janko Tipsarevic in the hosts' lineup this week. The 117th- ranked Lajovic is the lowest-ranked player to appear in a Davis Cup final in nearly a decade.

The Czechs beat Spain in last year's final when a heroic Stepanek won a fifth and deciding rubber in Prague.

Djokovic built on his second-set-tiebreak-win momentum by breaking Berdych in the first game of the third set and, with the support of a raucous crowd, broke the Czech again in the seventh game, en route to sealing the victory in 2 hours, 41 minutes.

The 26-year-old Djokovic is now 27-7 in his career Davis Cup singles, while Berdych fell to 27-13.

Djokovic improved to 15-2 lifetime against the former Wimbledon runner-up Berdych, including a 4-1 record this year. The Serb also topped the Czech in Davis Cup play, in four sets, in 2010.

The red-hot Australian Open titlist Djokovic has won his last 24 matches overall, including a title last week at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London. He hasn't lost since giving way to his great rival Rafael Nadal in September's U.S. Open finale.

In Friday's opening singles, the Belgrade native Djokovic straight-setted the world No. 44 Stepanek 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 and Berdych blitzed Lajovic, also in straights, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

The Serbs are captained by Bogdan Obradovic, while the Czechs, appearing in their third final in five years, are skippered by interim captain Vladimir Safarik, who is filling on for Jaroslav Navratil after he was hospitalized with a blood clot last week.

Serbia and the Czech Republic have split their two previous meetings. The Czechs beat the visiting Serbs in a quarterfinal matchup last year, while host Serbia prevailed in a semifinal in 2010, the year the Serbs corralled their lone Davis Cup title.