Belgrade, Serbia (SportsNetwork.com) - Serbian hero Novak Djokovic and Czech
slugger Tomas Berdych were Friday's opening singles winners, as the best-of-
five Davis Cup final between the host Serbs and reigning champion Czech
Republic is level at 1-1.
The second-ranked former world No. 1 Djokovic kicked things off by handling
34-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 in 2 hours, 10 minutes, while
the Day 1 nightcap saw the seventh-ranked Berdych power his way past 23-year-
old Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 on the indoor hardcourt in front of more
than 20,000 spectators at Kombank Arena.
In the opening set of Djokovic-Stepanek, Djokovic raced out to a 5-2 lead
only to see the gritty Stepanek fight back to level it at 5-all. The Serbian
star, however, held his serve in the 11th game and then broke his Czech
counterpart to take the stanza and control of the match.
The second set was all Djokovic, and in the third the Serbian slugger broke
Stepanek for a 5-4 lead and then closed out the rubber on his quality serve.
Djokovic authored five service breaks, compared to only one for the crafty
The Australian Open titlist Djokovic has now won his last 23 matches overall,
including a title just this 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 final.
The Belgrade native improved to 25-7 lifetime in his career Davis Cup singles,
including a 23-3 mark indoors, while Stepanek fell to 13-12.
In the nightcap, Berdych eased his way past the talented Lajovic in 1 hour, 54
minutes without facing a break point while breaking his overmatched opponent
Berdych is now 26-12 lifetime in Davis Cup singles, while Lajovic is 1-1 after
playing his first-ever live rubber. The 117th-ranked Lajovic is the lowest-
ranked player to appear in a Davis Cup final in nearly a decade.
The Serbs are playing without former world No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic, who's
nursing a right heel injury suffered last month in Spain.
Saturday's pivotal doubles rubber tentatively pits a Serbian duo of Nenad
Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac against a Czech tandem of Lukas Rosol and Jan
Hajek, but recent history would suggest that the former Wimbledon runner-up
Berdych and Stepanek will play for the visitors in that one. Berdych and
Stepanek are 13-1 together in Davis Cup doubles.
Sunday's reverse singles have the red-hot Djokovic battling Berdych and
Stepanek taking on Lajovic.
The Czechs beat Spain in last year's World Group final when the heroic
Stepanek won a fifth and deciding rubber in Prague.
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
last week with a blood clot.
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.
The Sports Network