The 2012 tennis season reaches its conclusion this weekend with the Davis Cup Final. The 100th final takes place at the O2 Arena in Prague on indoor hard courts, with the Czech Republic hosting Spain in a repeat of the 2009 final, which was held on clay in Barcelona.
The Czechs will be out for revenge for the 5-0 thrashing they suffered that weekend three years ago and they are surely well placed to do it on a much quicker surface and conditions that favour their top two of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Both players will be key for the Czechs, as they will participate in both singles and doubles this weekend. Spain, on the other hand, have picked David Ferrer and Nico Almagro in singles and World Tour Final winners Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the doubles.
The opening match of the final takes place at 3pm UK time on Friday, with familiar foes Ferrer and Stepanek going head-to-head for the 10th time in their careers. Ferrer has had the better of their recent meetings, winning the last
three, including one in that 2009 final. But on his favoured clay surface he had to come from two sets down to beat Steps 8-6 in the final set and I doubt this will be as easy as his price of 1.17 suggests.
The veteran Czech has a habit of going long, with his last two Davis Cup matches at home - against Janko Tipsarevic and Andreas Seppi - going to five sets and he’s been involved in four five set matches against Ferrer. With his 34th birthday coming up, Stepanek is certainly not the force he was, but I suspect that he will be giving absolutely everything in what is probably his last chance at Davis Cup glory.
Ferrer should prove to be too durable in the end, but it has been a long season and the Spaniard has played a lot of tennis in the last few weeks. Despite all that he seems to be able to keep going somehow and should overcome Stepanek in three or four sets. I don’t like writing Stepanek off though and 5.0 is quite tempting on what's sure to be a quickish surface. But I think the solid play is either to back the overs at 37.5 games at around 1.90 or for a bigger priced wager back Ferrer 3-1 at around 3.45.
The second rubber of the day features Berdych and Almagro. The Czech will have to win this one fairly convincingly to avoid looking foolish after his comments about the Spaniard a few days ago where he questioned Almagro’s big match mentality. Fortunately for Berdych he should be proved correct, as Almagro is yet to beat a top 20 ranked player on an indoor hard court and usually struggles in these conditions and at this time of the season.
Berdych has won the last seven sets he’s contested against Almagro and although I expect a nervy opener from both players the higher ranked Berdych should come through in straight sets. Seven of their ten completed matches against each other have resulted in straight sets wins, and on a quick indoor hard court away from home with the crowd against him, Almagro’s challenge will probably fade after the second set if he’s 2-0 down.
Even Spanish team mate Feli Lopez has questioned the decision of captain Alex Corretja to pick Almagro on this indoor surface, with the left hander claiming that: “if anyone can beat Berdych on a surface like that, it was me.” Not great for team moral, that, but it does highlight how poor Almagro is on indoor hard and it would take a huge choke for Berdych to lose this one. The over 9.5 games in set one at 1.60 looks very likely, as does the Berdych 3-0 at 2.10.
Back over 37.5 games in Stepanek vs Ferrer at 1.90
Back over 9.5 games in set one of Berdych vs Almagro at 1.60
Back Berdych to beat Almagro 3-0 at 2.10