Czechs retain Davis Cup trophy after defeating Serbia
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The Czech Republic won its second straight Davis Cup title on Sunday after Radek Stepanek defeated Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 in their singles match, handing his team an overall 3-2 win.
The Czech Republic defended the Davis Cup title after Radek Stepanek beat Serbian youngster Dusan Lajovic in the decisive fifth final rubber in straight sets on Sunday.
The 44th-ranked, 34-year-old Stepanek beat the 23-year-old Lajovic, world number 117, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 52 minutes, handing the Czechs an overall 3-2 win.
On the hardcourt of the Belgrade Arena, the Czech Republic, playing the third Davis Cup final in five years, scored a ninth straight victory in Davis Cup ties.
"I was under the biggest pressure that can be," a jubilant Stepanek said after the game.
"We are one of only five teams" that have defended the cup, he added.
Lajovic replaced 36th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic, out with a heel injury, while 2010 champions Serbia also missed 76th-ranked Viktor Troicki over a doping ban.
Lajovic, who has lost all four ATP-level games he has played this year, started the decisive rubber in high spirits, breaking Stepanek's very first serve.
But his enthusiasm was short-lived as the Czech veteran, betting on patience and changing the rhythm of his play at will, broke Lajovic's next two serves to win the set 6-3.
Clad in his lucky blue t-shirt with a big lion -- which Andy Murray's mother Judy described as "staggeringly bad" on Saturday -- Stepanek raced to take the second set 6-1.
Lajovic enjoyed a few fine moments but he was inferior to Stepanek in every respect. Casting desperate looks around him he let his game crumble and allowed Stepanek to enjoy the ovations from a noisy group of Czechs in the sold-out arena.
"I knew I could use my experience from last year," said Stepanek, who beat Nicolas Almagro in the decisive rubber for the 2012 trophy.
"I controlled the game except in the first game, and I played in the best form of my life the whole weekend."
Earlier, Serbia's world number two Novak Djokovic forced the decisive rubber as he beat seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in two hours and 41 minutes for his 24th victory in a row.
Propelled by a noisy home crowd, Djokovic relied on his serve, while Berdych tried to indulge him in long exchanges, combining a fast forehand with a wicked sliced backhand.
"It was very emotional, both of us got into the match with a lot of pressure because of the importance of the game," Djokovic said.
Djokovic earned ten break points against none for Berdych in the first set and finally converted his fourth set point for a 6-4 lead.
Djokovic went on to take the second set in tie-break after letting off some steam and destroying a racquet, and before taking the third set in style, 6-2.
Berdych admitted that Djokovic's victory was deserved.
"I tried to hold on to him from the beginning to the end but it wasn't enough," he said.
"He's in an excellent shape, he plays great tennis and moreover in front of such a crowd."
In Friday's singles, Djokovic, the recently-crowned ATP World Tour Finals champion, beat Stepanek 7-5, 6-1, 6-4, and Berdych then saw off Lajovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
On Saturday, Berdych and Stepanek won the 14th of their 15 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together as they swept Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
A year ago, the Czechs beat Spain 3-2 in Prague for their first triumph as an independent country with Stepanek again winning the decisive final rubber.
Former Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the cup in 1980.