Prague – Hosts Czech Republic came within a point of winning the Davis Cup final after beating holders Spain in the doubles rubber here on Saturday to take a 2-1 overall lead.
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 in three hours and 19 minutes.
“That's all we wanted,” a triumphant Berdych, who is only 119th in the ATP doubles rankings, said after the game.
“We are still missing a lot, it's just one point, but we are looking ahead and we will do everything,” on Sunday, he added.
Lopez and Granollers, ranked sixth and 10th in doubles, came to Prague with a boost from their ATP Tour Finals win last week.
They only lost one game at the London tournament – against Stepanek and India's Leander Paes.
On Saturday, Stepanek, the world No 4 in doubles, lost his opening serve, which was enough for the Spaniards to take the first set.
“I had a bad first serve and our opponents... played without any pressure, delivering incredible shots, serving amazingly,” said Stepanek.
“But we told ourselves there is no way they can keep playing like that,” he added.
In the second set, Lopez was the first to lose his serve but Berdych offered Spain a quick re-break.
But Lopez was in for more trouble as he struggled to come back from three set points down and finally conceded the fourth one to let the Czechs come level.
In the third set, games went with serve until Lopez offered two set points again and the Czechs converted the second one.
All but flawless throughout the rubber, Granollers lost his serve in the sixth game of the fourth set and that was all the Czechs needed to clinch their 12th Davis Cup doubles win together, against a single loss.
In Friday's singles, Spain's No 1 David Ferrer beat Stepanek 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and Berdych then put the Czechs level after beating Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.
On Sunday, Berdych, the world No 6, will take on fifth-ranked Ferrer in a rubber pitting the teams' number one players against each other.
Stepanek, the world No 37 in singles, is due to face 11th-ranked Almagro after that.
Spain, missing world No 4 Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from a knee injury, are looking to lift their fourth Davis Cup in five years, in addition wins in 2000 and 2004.
The Czech Republic, which emerged as an independent country after Czechoslovakia split in 1993, has yet to win its first, but Czechoslovakia lifted the Davis Cup in 1980.
A victory would give the Czechs a rare team double after the women's team defended the Fed Cup here two weeks ago. – Sapa-AFP