Spain's David Ferrer capped off an outstanding 2012 season by defeating Czech Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 Sunday to level the Davis Cup final at 2-2.
His victory means that the final singles match between Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and Czech Radek Stepanek will decide the winner of tennis' biggest international team competition.
Ferrer put on a remarkable display of mental fortitude and concentration, blocking out the cheers of the crowd at Prague's O2 Arena to cruise past Berdych in just two hours and 25 minutes and hand the Czech his worst-ever home defeat in Davis Cup.
The world No. 5 raced to a 5-1 lead and took the first set 6-2 after fighting off three break points in his final service game.
The second set was nearly a carbon copy of the first, as the Spaniard got an early break and then dominated his service games the rest of the way to put Berdych in a deep hole.
Berdych finally managed to break Ferrer's serve to level the third set at 4-4, but three games later the Spaniard notched his fifth break of the match to go ahead 6-5 and avoid a tiebreaker.
He then converted his first match point in the next game when Berdych netted a forehand.
With his victory, Ferrer completed the best season of his career, highlighted by reaching the French Open semifinals for the first time and the final four of the U.S. Open and winning the Paris Masters for his first-ever ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
Ferrer, Spain's top singles player in the absence of injured Rafael Nadal, also was a perfect 6-0 this year in Davis Cup.
The Davis Cup final now will be decided by the Sunday afternoon match between the 11th-ranked Almagro and Stepanek, the world No. 37.
Almagro won their last match at this year's U.S. Open in four sets and showed his ability to play on the O2 Arena's quick indoor hard court by taking Berdych to five sets on Friday.
Stepanek, however, warned after joining with Berdych to win Saturday's doubles that Almagro would face much greater pressure in a fifth and deciding match.
"He played very well against Tomas but they already had a point in their locker room so he played very freely," he said. "When it comes to the last rubber it will be a completely different story."
Spain is seeking its sixth Davis Cup championship, with all of the previous five coming between 2000 and 2011.
The Czechs' only title in tennis' premier international team competition came in 1980, when Ivan Lendl led Czechoslovakia to a 4-1 victory over Italy in the final in Prague. EFE