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Czechs add Davis Cup to trophy haul
Melissa Woods
19:03 AEST Mon Nov 19 2012

With less than half our population, the Czech Republic achieved a tennis feat that former superpower Australia had last achieved almost 40 long years ago.

While Australia again languish in the Davis Cup wilderness, the Czechs are celebrating their first title as an independent nation with victory over heavy-weights Spain.

Tomas Berdych and journeyman Radek Stepanek proved the dynamic duo with a 3-2 win in the final.

Ivan Lendl and Tomas Smid did the same when Czechoslovakia defeated Italy 4-1 in the 1980 final.

They are the first nation since the mighty United States in 1990 to complete the rare Davis Cup-Fed Cup double after Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova earlier this month led the Czech Republic to glory in the women's equivalent for the second successive year

Australia last collected both trophies in 1973.

And for good measure, the Czechs also won this year's Hopman Cup mixed teams' event in Perth.

The Davis Cup triumph was all the more impressive with world No.6 Berdych and Stepanek, ranked 37, playing both singles and doubles in each tie on the way to the final.

They spent about 10 hours each on the court to overcome Spain, who were without former world No.1 Rafael Nadal.

The pair also recorded the extraordinary two-man feat in conquests over Italy, Serbia and Argentina.

Australia's starting point for their trek back to the World Group begins away to Taiwan in Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1.

That tie will be held just after the Australian Open from February 1-3.

In the Fed Cup Australia's women face a tough first round after winning promotion back into the top tier.

They have been drawn to play away against the defending champions the following weekend.

The Czechs' quest for the Davis Cup began in the 2007 World Cup playoff against Switzerland in Prague, with Stepanek and Berdych teaming up in doubles against Roger Federer and Yves Allegro.

The pair saved a match point before going on to win the match and ultimately the series, starting the journey to this title.

"We've been dreaming about it since the series against Switzerland," Stepanek said after the final.

"Whatever it takes in the Davis Cup, we'll go through it."

In clinching the trophy with 6-4 7-6 (7-0) 3-6 6-3 upset win over world No.11 Nicolas Almagro, Stepanek became the oldest man in Davis Cup history to win the fifth and deciding rubber of the final.

There's still time for stalwart Lleyton Hewitt, 31, Australia's most prolific Davis Cup player.

The former Wimbledon champion last week insisted that 2013 would not be his last campaign.

Now ranked 82 Hewitt and Bernard Tomic, No. 51, failed in their bid to rejoin the world group in September when they let slip a 2-1 lead and fell to Germany.

National men's coach and former Davis Cup winner Todd Woodbridge said Hewitt remained committed to returning Australia to its former Davis Cup standing.

"That loss to Germany was one of the toughest of his career," Woodbridge said.

"He wanted to get Australia back in the world group.

"Great champions don't finish on that note, they go out and find something better and more special and that's what he's about."