DAVIS CUP WORLD GROUP FINAL 2011
Nadal Beats del Potro To Earn Spain Its Fifth Davis Cup Title
by James Buddell|
SPAIN 3, ARGENTINA 1 - Olympic Stadium, Seville (Clay - Indoors)
Spain clinched its fifth Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title on Sunday, when Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Martin del Potro 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(0) in Seville to give the host nation a 3-1 victory over Argentina. The rubber lasted four hours and eight minutes.
"We gave everything, it was a very emotional victory at the end of a tough year," Nadal told the host television broadcaster. "Winning in this way, we are very grateful to all the people of Spain. It was the best atmosphere I have experienced in my career."
World No. 2 Nadal has a 20-1 record in singles rubbers for Spain, who lifted its third trophy in four years. Spain holds the World Group record for the longest run of wins (21) by a nation at home. Spain's last home loss was in 1999 (l. Brazil), which was also the last time it lost a Davis Cup tie on clay.
Argentina was bidding to become the first South American country to lift the Davis Cup title. It was the fourth time (also 1981, 2006, 2008) it has finished runner-up. Spain first participated in Dwight Davis' competition in 1921. It also won the title in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2009.
Del Potro took a 3-1 lead when Nadal committed three groundstroke errors, but the 23-year-old Argentinean immediately came under pressure in the next game. He saved two break points with an unreturned serve and a fortuitous net cord winner off a forehand. Del Potro continued to overpower Nadal, firing clean winners off anything short. But once Nadal moved his opponent around and hit close to the lines, the Spaniard dictated the points.
Nadal recovered from 0/40 to deuce at 1-4, but made two costly errors to be broken and give del Potro an opportunity to serve for the set. Del Potro tightened up, falling to 0/40 and - after saving four break points - eventually, on his third set point chance, he struck a backhand crosscourt winner off a poorly placed Nadal drop shot. Del Potro hit 18 winners and committed 15 unforced errors in the 63-minute set, while Nadal could only convert one of eight break point opportunities.
Del Potro won his seventh straight game by breaking Nadal to 30 in the first game of the second set. But Nadal, by winning five straight points to break back for 1-1, grew in confidence and the balance of power shifted in the pair's 10th meeting. Nadal began mixing up his service placement to keep del Potro guessing. At 3-4, del Potro saved one break point, as Nadal began to made inroads on return of serve. Two games later, Nadal found his range in baseline rallies and broke del Potro to 30 to clinch the 57-minute set with a smash winner. Nadal, who leapt in the air to celebrate, dropped eight points on serve and hit 10 winners. Del Potro made 21 errors.
From 1-1 in the second set to 3-1, 40/0, in the third set, covering one hour of play, Nadal did not drop a point on his serve. The streak ended when he mis-timed a forehand long of the baseline. Nadal looked every inch a six-time Roland Garros champion, when he broke del Potro for 2-0 with two straight forehand winners down the line, after del Potro had run around backhands.
Questions over del Potro's movement to his left surfaced in the sixth game, when he dropped to 30/40. Although the World No. 11 - with heavy strapping on both thighs - saved the break point, a moment of brilliance from Nadal sealed a 5-1 lead. Del Potro attacked the net off a deep forehand stroke, but Nadal hit a running forehand winner down the line to get the crowd at the Olympic Stadium on its feet. Argentina's bench looked shell-shocked. Nadal held to love to clinch the 43-minute third set, having won 16 of his 17 service points.
The match looked to be moving away from del Potro when, in the first game of the fourth set, he was broken to 15 after hitting a forehand drive volley long. Nadal took a 2-0 lead, before del Potro staged a resurgence. Three groundstroke errors from Nadal, saw del Potro break to 30 for 2-2. Nadal's dip in concentration gave life to thousands of Argentinean supporters courtside. But in an nine-minute game to follow, Nadal dominated long baseline rallies to force del Potro into hitting a forehand long.
Del Potro was not finished. Incredibly, he regained the form that clinched him the first set. Winning 10 of the next 11 points, with aggressive tactics and clinical play at the net, he won three games in a row for a 5-3 lead. Del Potro came to within two points of winning the set, but at 30/30 he hit a double fault. On break point, del Potro struck three volleys before Nadal scrambled back a forehand winner. It was the set's sixth break of serve.
Nadal then broke del Potro's serve to 30, when the Argentine hit his 52nd error of the rubber. At the match ticked over the four-hour mark, del Potro made one final push. Nadal saved one break point at 15/40 with a gutsy backhand drive, which del Potro dive-volleyed wide. But he struck a powerful forehand winner on his second opportunity to take the set to a tie-break.
Nadal improved to 20-9 in tie-breaks in 2011 (139-85 lifetime) with a flawless finish, ending with his 26th forehand winner. He committed 20 unforced errors in the final three sets. Overall this season, Nadal compiled a 69-15 match record and won three tour-level titles.
ABOUT DAVIS CUP
Fans wanting to learn more about the history of the competition can explore a virtual tour of the Davis Cup trophy. The tour showcases the trophy within an interactive 360-degree design that rotates to allow visitors to explore the entire image. Clicking on any of the engraved plaques displays the names of the nations and players from each final and also provides audio histories of each final. To view the virtual tour, visit the official Davis Cup website.