(dpa) - Slumping Marat Safin produced an heroic win as he rallied from two sets to love down for a 6-7 (5-7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6- 4 comeback over Czech Tomas Berdych in Friday's opening Davis Cup World Group rubber.
But while former number one Safin - who won his only ATP match of the season last January in Australia, gave the hosts an early lead on indoor clay, Nadal Stepanek levelled to end opening day at 1-1 by defeating Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Safin, a two-time Grand Slam winner not standing 87th, struggled for the fightback over nearly four hours, firing 29 aces and breaking in the fifth game of the final set against Berdych.
The 28-year-old Russian was appearing on the squad for the second time in a year as he won his second Davis match in a row. "This win means a lot for me," said Safin. "It was so important since I've barely won anything the last few months.
"I didn't expect to win against a Top-10 player on his best form."
The marathon was an exercise in missed opportunities: Safin converted on four of 21 break points while Berdych managed just one of 19.
Safin put his nation ahead with 43 winners, striking 61 unforced errors in the was on clay as he handed Berdych a first loss over five sets in the competition.
In Bremen, Germany, world number two Rafael Nadal spoiled the Davis Cup return of Nicolas Kiefer with a 7-6 (7-), 6-0, 6-3 victory to open the account for the visitors indoors on hardcourt.
Nadal had complained of fatigue after losing last weekend's Miami final.
But the Spaniard wasted little time in putting his team ahead in just under three hours against Kiefer, who has suffered with injuries in recent seasons.
Nadal struggled early on, missing nine of ten break points in the opening set.
The 30-year-old struck a dozen aces, but lost serve five times from 19 Nadal break chances, with the German going down on a forehand return error.
German number one Philipp Kohlschreiber was hoping to level the day when he played David Ferrer.
In other ties, Argentina was hosting Sweden in Buenos Aires while the US with Andy Roddick and James Blake were taking on France in North Carolina.