The first day’s singles matches were shared and Berdych and Stepanek came back from a set down to win the doubles on Saturday.
So the Czechs lead 2-1 going into the final day. The first match should be Berdych against Ferrer. I say “should” because one of the irritations for trading Davis Cup matches is that the players can be changed at a minute’s notice.
Ferrer leads the head to heads 6-3 although their first 5 matches were on clay and took place between 2004 and 2007. On indoor hard courts they are 1-1 with Berdych winning the most recent of them at the World Tour Finals last year. In their 2 hardcourt matches the winner had to come back from losing the opening set.
Ferrer had a day off from playing after his straight sets win over Stepanek on Friday. Berdych was needed to play in the doubles as the Spanish were fielding the winners of this year’s World Tour Finals, Granollers and Mark Lopez. The Czechs came through in 4 sets but that means Berdych has played 9 sets in 2 days compared to Ferrer’s 3 sets followed by almost 48 hours rest. In a best of 5 match that is likely to be significant.
Ferrer starts at 1.67 . Berdych will feel he has to get the job done in straight sets which is no easy task. He certainly won’t want to go to 5 sets again and this time he’s up against the Road Runner. Berdych likes to start slowly and play himself into the first set but I feel he will be forced to change that today. Changing tactics against one of the world’s best players isn’t often a good idea.
I think the market has the correct favourite but I have this much nearer an even match than the price suggests. I will wait for a higher price to get onto the Spaniard. If Ferrer can get one of the opening 2 sets ( and especially the first set) then it will look and feel like a huge mountain to climb with Berdych’s heavy legs.
Update: I was surprised to see a straight sets win but Ferrer won 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
If the second of today’s singles matches is required ( ie if Ferrer beats Berdych) then Stepanek and Almagro will battle it out for the title.
Stepanek leads the head to heads 2-1 but in the only meeting in the last 2 years Almagro won in 4 sets in this years US Open.
Stepanek has the same problem as Berdych in that he hasn’t had the days rest that Almagro has. Even though he has played 2 sets less than his team mate he has a few more years on the clock and a 4 or 5 set match could see him struggling. Almagro himself looked very tired towards the end of his five setter with Berdych but he had a rest day on Saturday and at his age should be able to recover quickly.
Almagro starts at 1.72 which is about right. Almagro never does things the easy way though and I will feel happier backing him above evens. there will be huge pressure on both players if they are playing to decide the final. Stepanek will relish being the potential hero but I don’t think his legs will be doing what his brain tells them if this turns into a long match.
Update: Almagro didn’t handle the pressure very well at all. All credit to Stepanek though as he won the deciding rubber for his country.
Stepanek won 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.