Rafael Nadal may have struggled down the stretch on the ATP circuit, but the lefty great does go out on a high note after leading his Spanish team to a sweep of the Czech Republic in the season-ending Davis Cup final.
Nadal keyed Spain’s win blanking Tomas Berdych on Friday, but it wasn’t easy. Berdych actually had a stranglehold on the match early on with Rafa pinned on his own serve down 4-5, 0-30. With a boisterous Barcelona crowd of 16,000 strong watching, Nadal, as he so often does, dug in and remarkably reeled off by my count 13 straight games thereafter to cruise to an opening rubber win.
Credit to David Ferrer, who drew second match duty over Fernando Verdasco in a surprise selection by coach Alberto Costa. And Costa’s move looked terribly suspect early on as Radek Stepanek was in complete command leading Ferrer 6-1, 6-2. But perhaps drawing from Rafa earlier recovery, Ferrer also regrouped and avoided the dreaded “death by dropshot” strategy employed by the creative Czech and Ferrer rallied 6-4, 6-4 and then won 8-6 in a fifth set thriller.
With Spain up 2-0 the stage was set for Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez to clinch the title, and they didn’t let the team down. Verdasco/Lopez had no trouble in a 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Berdych and Stepanek to win it for Spain.
Earlier today in the dead rubbers, Nadal trounced Jan Hajek 6-3, 6-4 while Ferrer flattened Lukas Dlouhy 6-4, 6-2 to secure the sweep. (Remarkable that Nadal would even play!)
“To finish the second half of the season with this ending is very important and nice, especially after all of the problems I had over those two months,” said Nadal.
“We are all very good friends,” he added. “That helps a lot. That’s very important. But first thing is [we] have very good players. In Spain, we have a lot.”
Said Verdasco: “It’s unbelievable to win the Davis Cup two years in a row. We are so happy because this time we won in Spain. It has been my best year by far. I started the year having just won the Davis Cup and I finish the year winning the Davis Cup again so you can imagine how I feel. I just want to improve and hope that next year we win the Davis Cup again and I play even better for myself in the tour during the year.”
Spain wins its fourth Davis Cup title, all coming this decade. And if Nadal can remain healthy there’s no reason the Spaniards won’t be adding to that total in the next decade.
And with that, the end to what seems like the longest tennis season in the history!
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