No Rafael Nadal. No problem for Spain who still captured the Davis Cup title over home favorite Argentina without the services of their World No. 1. Spanish lefty Fernando Versdasco sealed the victory today after rallying to beat Jose Acasuso 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the Davis Cup final played in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.
What a crazy match. What a crazy tie.
Verdasco was penciled in for the subpar David Ferrer while Acasuso replaced the injured Juan Martin Del Potro. And with the score 2-1 in Spain’s favor and David Nalbandian and Feliciano Lopez scheduled for the fifth rubber, it really was a winner take all kind of match (I think Nalbandian would have won that fifth) and the nerves and pressure showed.
In the biggest career match for either player, both Verdasco and Acasuso were understandably tight, tense and nervy. At times it was even tough to watch on TV (I can’t imagine the tension in the arena!). Witnessing a match like that really makes you appreciate the greats like Roger Federer and Nadal who keep together so easily under the most extreme pressures.
With Acasuso up 2-1 in sets, it looked like Argentina was going to get it to Nalbandian, but Jose all but caved in. By the fifth set Acasuso looked like a guy who didn’t want to even be out there. That’s too bad.
Full credit to Verdasco, though. He’s gotten his fair share of ribbing from many folks – myself included – for being an underachiever, but despite some early choking and double digits double faults, he came up huge today and yesterday in the doubles with buddy Feliciano Lopez.
And Spanish coach Emilio Sanchez deserves a nod for passing on Ferrer in favor of Verdasco, who really had never proven himself in a big pressure match situation. Great move by Sanchez.
As for Argentina, they absolutely had to have this title but the moment and maybe some bad luck got to them in the end.
Their rising star Del Potro gets injured in a singles loss to Lopez on Friday. That’s bad luck. But you could make the case it evens out with Spain’s Nadal loss. And without Nadal it was almost a catch-22 for Argentina having to play Lopez and Verdsaco on a fast hard court surface. Had it been known well in advanced that Spain would be without Nadal, Argentina would have surely chosen clay.
For me though the tie really swung in the Saturday doubles. After splitting the first two sets, Spain led 5-1 in the third but before jumping on the choke button allowing Argentina to roar back and force a tiebreak
But just when momentum seemed to have firmly shifted to the home nation, Argentina collapsed. Serving up 5-1 in the breaker a Spanish fan yelled out in mid-toss leading to a Nalbandian double fault. And that did it. Argentina was unable to win another point in that breaker subsequently falling 2-1 in sets. Argentina ultimately lost the match setting up today’s must-win fourth rubber. But that’s just part of the allure of Davis Cup.
Back to today, you have to really feel for Acasuso, who suffered his second 5-set defeat in a clinching rubber of a Davis Cup final, and the Nalbandian who I’m sure wanted this one badly.
Again, though, congrats to Spain. Without Nadal, playing in a hostile environment they could have easily rolled over but they didn’t. They kept their head and now they have three Davis Cup titles while Argentina remains stuck at zero. And who would have guessed that Lopez and Verdasco would figure in all three points leading to Spain’s triumph. I guess in some ways it’s a fitting conclusion to a very wacky season.
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