Verdasco Clinches Epic Davis Cup Victory For Spain
Mar del Plata, Argentina
by ATP Staff|
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco battled past Argentina’s Jose Acasuso 6-3, 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in a compelling match to give the visiting nation an unassailable 3-1 lead in the 2008 Davis Cup World Group final and clinch the ITF men’s team competition for a third time for Spain.
In winning its first Davis Cup title on foreign soil, Spain has triumphed every four years since lifting the trophy for the first time in 2000 with victory on clay in Barcelona over Australia; it defeated the USA again on its favored clay in Seville in 2004. It also becomes the seventh nation to win the Davis Cup title three times or more.
Despite suffering the blow of World No. 1 Rafael Nadal being declared unfit to play, the Spaniards - captained by Emilio Sanchez - rallied to produce a weekend of enthralling tennis to upset the home nation and become the first team to win a Davis Cup tie in Argentina since 1998.
Lopez had leveled the tie for the visitors on Friday with victory over Argentine No. 1 Juan Martin del Potro after David Ferrer had fallen in the first rubber to David Nalbandian. In Saturday’s doubles, Lopez and Verdasco combined for a four sets victory over Agustin Calleri and Nalbandian to give Spain the final day advantage. The fifth rubber - scheduled to be between Nalbandian and Lopez - was not played.
Ferrer had been due to take the court in the fourth rubber, but Verdasco was favored after a fine performance in the doubles win, while Argentine hopes took a hit as del Potro was forced to withdraw with a thigh injury leaving Acasuso to step up to the plate having not played competitively since losing in the Basel first round in October.
In a fever pitch atmosphere at the 11,000 capacity Estadio Islas Malvinas, it was Verdasco who drew first blood, breaking in the sixth game before going on to close out the set 6-3 as Acasuso hit a forehand long. However, the left-hander was not able to capitalize on his momentum, immediately surrendering a break of serve in the second set with a double fault to trail 0-2. Acasuso went on to lead by a break twice, but was unable to close out the set before it went to a deciding tie-break. The Buenos Aires resident held his nerve in the tie-break though and leveled the match as Verdasco netted a backhand.
Three breaks were exchanged at the start of the third set due to inconsistent - but at times marvelous - play from both men before Acasuso established a 3-1 lead. The right-hander missed two chances to extend his lead in the fifth game and was made to pay later as Verdasco broke back to level at 4-4. But the Madrileno’s comeback was short-lived as Acasuso found his best tennis to break once more with a rocketing forehand return winner before closing out the set on serve with an ace.
The 25-year-old Verdasco dug deep in the fourth set and defied the raucous home support as he broke once in the sixth game as Acasuso sent a cross-court backhand wide before going on to take the match to a deciding fifth set with strong play forcing a forehand error from Acasuso on set point.
With Acasuso having received treatment for a stomach injury after the fourth set, Verdasco turned the screw further on the ailing Argentine, racing into a 4-0 lead in the fifth set. Buoyed by the support he received from his teammates on the Spanish bench, Verdasco earned three match points with Acasuso serving at 1-5 and was able to convert on his third with a forehand winner down the line before falling on his back in celebration.
"I was more relaxed after the fourth set," said Verdasco on the Davis Cup official web site. "I understood we needed tactics to win the match and I realised that he was tired so I took advantage of making him run."
The victory brings to an end Argentina’s run of 13 victories on home soil, and sees it become one of three countries, along with India and Romania, to lose its first three Davis Cup finals – having also finished runner-up in 1981 (l. to United States) and 2006 (l. to Russia).
Verdasco improved to a 9-6 Davis Cup record since making his debut versus the Slovak Republic in 2006 and helped Spain to the World Group final by winning two of three doubles matches (w/Lopez) in the year’s earlier ties. He has enjoyed a career-best season on the ATP circuit, finishing inside the Top 20 at No. 16 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time in his career and winning his second ATP title at Umag (d. Andreev).
The 26-year-old Acasuso suffered similar heartache in the 2006 Davis Cup final, losing the decisive fifth rubber to Russia’s Marat Safin in Moscow. He dropped to a 7-4 event record since making his debut against Sweden in the 2006 first round.
"There was a lot of sadness in the locker room after the loss," said Acasuso on the Davis Cup web site. "And the fact that three of the four of us lost to Russia two years ago means that the pain was double."