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Spain, Nadal and the Davis Cup

December 5, 2011

By Greg Rusedski

The Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina was always going to be a great tie. The atmosphere was electric due to the huge Argentinian contingent in Seville who were present to support their team. Both the Spanish and Argentinian fans got into the tie and with 26,000 plus spectators the atmosphere was more like a football match.

The tie all depended on how well Juan Martin Del Potro played on the opening day. The feeling was that he had to win his opening match on day one for Argentina to have a chance to win the tie. No one was going to beat Rafa on clay, and the only player to have done so all year was Djokovic. The other problem for Del Potro was that Nadal and David Ferrer were 25 and 0 on clay in Davis Cup. Yes, Nadal and Ferrer were a little tired after the ATP World Tour Finals but playing on clay at home was a huge advantage. Nadal looked physically strong at the ATP World Tour Finals but was unlucky to have picked up a stomach bug and never recovered properly for the event. This was bad news for the Argentinians because he was going to take out his frustration on the clay courts of Seville.

Nadal won the opening match easily against Juan Monaco to get Spain off to the perfect start. This meant Juan Martin Del Potro was under immense pressure to win. It was Ferrer and Del Potro’s first meeting on clay. Their head to head was two a piece, Ferrer came through in five sets after being down 2 sets to 1. Ferrer is a terrier and never gives up, Del Potro physically fell away in the fifth set while Ferrer seemed to only get stronger – the lack of matches played by Del Potro really hurt him.

On the other hand Nadal and Ferrer have had lots of matches coming into the tie, proving that practice can never substitute match play for sharpness on the big points. In the doubles, Argentina’s Nalbandian and Schwank beat Spain’s Verdasco and Lopez to send the tie to a final day. In my opinion Spain’s captain, Albert Costa made a tactical error picking Verdasco to play instead of Granollers. At the moment Verdasco is not playing well. This would have been a big mistake had Del Potro won on the opening day. In the end though, when you have Rafael Nadal to play on the final day in the first singles you are going to get your decisive third point. Nadal found a way, as always, against an inspired Del Potro to clinch Spain’s fifth Davis Cup title.

Nadal will have a much needed rest now to get mentally and physically refreshed for the new year. When he gets back to training he will need to get the pop he had on his serve when he won the US Open in 2010. Also his return of serve needs to get deeper and the forehand up the line needs to be firing. If he can improve these things in the off season he could be back to world number 1 in 2012.

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