BELGRADE, Serbia – Janko Tipsarevic beat Radek Stepanek on Sunday, sending Serbia to its first Davis Cup final with a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic.
Tipsarevic's 6-0, 7-6 (6), 6-4 win came after Novak Djokovic had tied the best-of-five tie at 2-2 by beating Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
After Tipsarevic had converted his third match point, the Serbian players fell into each other's arms, then dropped to the floor and formed a circle around a Serbian flag.
"Thank you, that's what we needed, you raised us from the dead," Tipsarevic told a boisterous crowd of 15,000 in Belgrade Arena that even used vuvuzelas to fire up their team.
Serbia will host France in the final Dec. 3-5. The French beat Argentina 5-0 in the other semifinal.
Tipsarevic proved to be Serbia's key player, winning both of his singles in the match against last season's runner-up team.
He won nine of the first 10 games against Stepanek, but nearly lost the second set after Stepanek had fought back. Tipsarevic had to save one set point in the tiebreaker before taking a two-set lead. He raced to a 4-0 lead in the third and cruised home despite dropping serve once.
"I don't think he made one mistake in the first, but I should have won the second," Stepanek said. "... I did my best, I left everything on the court and I lost against a guy who played better."
Djokovic, the U.S. Open runner-up, skipped the opening singles Friday because he was still tired from Monday's final against Rafael Nadal and only returned from New York two days before the match.
He played doubles Saturday in a losing effort that left Serbia trailing 2-1 and Djokovic had to beat Berdych to keep Serbia's hopes alive.
Djokovic, No. 2 in the world, had a lethargic start but rode the support of the hometown crowd.
"I felt sleepy in the first set but it didn't last long," he said.
There were two scary moments for Serbia in the second set. Djokovic was down 30-0 before recovering for a 3-2 lead.
In the next game, Djokovic slipped and fell heavily trying to reach a smash. He needed a medical break and returned with a bandage on his right knee.
"I woke up when I fell, but fortunately I was not hurt. And I felt a volcano of energy coming from the fans," he said.
Djokovic broke serve twice to go up 4-1 in the third and although he had a brief lapse when he lost the next game, he did not let up the pressure in closing out the match.
"He is a big fighter and he doesn't need much to get back into a match," said Berdych, who lost both singles matches. "I led 30-0 in the fifth game of the second, but he recovered and from then on my game went downhill."