We can, perhaps, argue about who is the best indoor player this year -- although Novak Djokovic certainly has a strong case. But if we leave out Djokovic and Roger Federer, there isn't much question: It's not Andy Murray, it's David Ferrer.
On Sunday, Ferrer took on Tomas Berdych, holder of two indoor titles this year, on Berdych's home court -- and thumped him. The score was 6-2 6-3 7-5, and Spain and the Czechs were even at 2-2.
Which left everything on the shoulders of Nicolas Almagro and Radek Stepanek. An interesting contrast. Almagro is more comfortable on clay, of course, whereas two of Stepanek's five career titles have come on indoor hardcourt and the other three on outdoor hardcourt. But Almagro is much higher-ranked, is younger, and came in better rested. The Davis Cup twitter feed reported that only one player over the age of thirty has won a live fifth rubber in the Davis Cup final. And Stepanek turns 34 this month, and the other instance of it happening was all the way back in 1912!
Stepanek did all he could to shorten the match, coming to net at every opportunity -- the stats show him coming in more than three times as often as Almagro in the first two sets. The problem was, Almagro still managed to keep Stepanek out there for two hours even as he was going down two sets to love. In the third set, fatigue seemed finally to start to tell. But Stepanek managed to find a second wind. He won the decider 6-4 7-6 3-6 6-3.
It is the first Davis Cup title for the independent Czech Republic, which is particularly noteworthy since this is the hundredth time the Cup has been played, and the first time in the memory of the Czech team members that they have won -- Czechoslovakia took the title in 1980. It also means that the Czechs hold both the Davis and Fed Cups for 2012.
Berdych and Stepanek each won two matches. Hard to say who is the most valuable player in that situation. Pretty easy to know who will be most hurt, though; it's Almagro, who suffered two losses -- and who, as a result, will end the year at #11. He would have been #10 had he won either of his contests.