Nadal looked at home on the clay surface, enjoying the home support [EPA]
Rafael Nadal beat Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 to give defending champions Spain a 1-0 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final in Barcelona.

Nadal converted a decisive break point in the 11th game on his way to taking the tight first set, and Berdych was never in the match after that as his serve faltered and he finished with 40 unforced errors.

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

Radek Stepanek will look to even the best-of-five series later on Friday evening when he plays David Ferrer in the second singles.

Spain, who have not lost at home in over a decade, are looking to become the first team since Sweden in 1998 to defend the trophy.

Top form

Nadal certainly did not look like the player who came in on the heels of a four-match winless run, including three defeats without winning a set at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last week.

Nadal's strengths - dogged determination and timely shot-making - were present Friday in front of 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 - one of 23 unforced errors in the opening set - to give Nadal the game and the momentum.

Berdych's confidence dropped away as he 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.

Nadal finished with 29 winners to 21 unforced errors.

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 out the match with a backhanded volley to put Spain on their way to a possible fourth title since they won their first at the same venue in 2000.

Spain have won 17 consecutive clay series and have not lost at home since 1999 - beating 19 opponents along the way.

In Saturday's doubles, Spanish pair Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco are set to face Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek.

Source: AP