Nadal cruises past Berdych, Spain leads Czechs 1-0

BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal beat Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 on Friday to give defending champion Spain a 1-0 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final.

Nadal converted a decisive break point in the 11th game on his way to taking the tight first set. Berdych was hurt by a faltering serve and was never in the match after that.

Returning to his favorite clay surface after four straight indoor defeats, Nadal won 11 straight games in one stretch for his fifth straight win over Berdych. He improved his Davis Cup clay record to 11-0.

He certainly didn't look like the player coming off a four-match winless run, including three defeats without winning a set at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last week.

Radek Stepanek will look to even the best-of-five series later Friday when he plays David Ferrer in the second singles. In Saturday's doubles, the Spanish pair of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco face Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek.

Spain is trying to become the first team since Sweden in 1998 to successfully defend the trophy. It is bidding for a fourth Davis Cup title, having won its first at the same venue in 2000. Spain has won 17 consecutive clay series and hasn't lost at home since 1999, beating 19 opponents along the way.

Nadal's strengths — dogged determination and timely shotmaking — were on display before 16,000 noisy fans at the Palau Sant Jordi. He was in command after a tense first set when, after exchanging breaks to start, both players held serve until Nadal scored the key break.

Berdych saved the first two break chances but netted a forehand to give Nadal the game and the momentum. Berdych could find no way to slow Nadal, who was charging down his opponent's crosscourt shots and ripping spectacular passing shots each time the Czech came forward. Berdych managed only five points on serve in the second set and failed to win a game.

Nadal ran his 11-game run to 4-0 in the third set before Berdych finally held again. Nadal closed the match with a backhanded volley to put Spain in front.