Things went pretty much according to form this weekend in Davis Cup. Spain rolled up on a game U.S. team, 4-1, while Argentina v. Russia went right down to the decider, with the Gaucho Nation coming through on the back of hero Juan Martin Del Potro to win 3-2.
That sets up a tantalizing finale come late November between Spain and Argentina at Argentina.
Before I dive into that matchup, if you weren’t impressed with 19-year-old Del Potro’s recent run on tour the last few months, you have to be now. Winning tournaments in LA, D.C. and Stuttgart are great achievements, but those events pale in terms of the pressure and expectations faced in Davis Cup, and the teen didn’t shy away, he embraced it.
Playing in his first home tie, JMDP kept his cool and absolutely pounded two very, very good claycourters in Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev. The kid, who has only dropped one match since Wimbledon that to Andy Murray at the US Open earlier this month, was never even close to being threatened all weekend – he didn’t even face a set point in either match defeating Andreev in the fifth and final rubber 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
Nalbandian also played well but fatigue finally became a factor for the alleged fat one. David was on court for Argentina’s tough five-set doubles loss Saturday, and I think that match and his Friday win over Andreev caught up to his legs Sunday as David simply ran out of steam late against Davydenko, falling meekly 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-0.
But as good as JMDP looked, so too did Nadal. After a creaky start on the opening day against Sam Querrey, Nadal resumed his role as the greatest dirtballer ever, ripping apart Andy Roddick, 6-4, 6-0, 6-4. Roddick of course played some his his best clay tennis we’ve ever seem from him in a respectable five set loss to David Ferrer Friday.
Nadal, who led Spain to Davis Cup glory in 2004, has yet to lose a best-of-five set clay match in his career, a mark that now stands at a ridiculous 43-0.
As for the US, they put up a great fight and made the tie much closer than many would have thought, myself included. There’s no shame in losing to the better team.
Looking ahead, way, way ahead, the key in the Argentina-Spain tie could very well come down to surface selection. And right now it appears that the host nation is going to put Rafa and Co. on a fast indoor surface, which I think gives Argentina the best chance of winning. On clay, grass or any other slower-type surface, Rafa is winning both of his rubbers. But a faster surface will give Nalbandian a better crack at Rafael, so as of now, I’ll stick my with pick at the start of the year and ride Argentina to their first Davis Cup crown in their history.
Scheduling will also figure into this equation. The Davis Cup finals come just after the Masters Cup which Nadal will of course be a part of. His countryman Ferrer is presently in the hunt to qualify and so too is JMDP. But with the Davis Cup stakes so high how much energy will guys like Ferrer and JMDP give to getting into Shanghai, and just how much effort will they (Nadal) put out if they do make it in. To be seen.
In the Word Group qualifying playoffs, as expected Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic led their nations back into the Davis Cup main draw for 2009. But no such luck for Britain and Andy Murray who were turned away by Austria 3-2. Andy did his part, winning both his singles matches, but his brother, Jamie, and Brit No. 2 Alex Bogdanovic pretty much caved in. Until Andy and the Brits find a solid No. 2 or at least someone who can win a live singles rubber every once in a while (which doesn’t look likely right now), good luck making any kind of impression in Davis Cup.
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