Argentina was a clear favorite before the Davis Cup final against Spain, because of many reasons. First of all, Spanish No. 1 in the world, Rafael Nadal had to withdraw from the final due to injury, moreover the two best currently Argentinian players, David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro had been very successful autumn, playing indoor tournaments (Davis Cup final in 2008, was also played indoor, in Mar del Plata), finally Argentina hasn’t lost on the home soil for 10 years.
In the first rubber on Friday, as anticipated, David Nalbandian without problems overcame 6-3 6-2 6-3 David Ferrer who has been out of form for a few months. Nalbandian lost his serve twice but from first to the last point of the match dictating the conditions on the court. “I don’t think it was one of my best matches, but I played very well” said Nalbandian.
Feliciano Lopez leveled the tie, after 4-6 7-6 7-6 6-3 win over Juan Martin del Potro. The young Argentinian served 25 aces (the most in career so far), didn’t lose a service game in the first three sets but couldn’t prevail in the tie-breaks which lost 2-7 and 4-7, despite 4:2 up in the second one. Lopez has won 12 tie-breaks in a row, and it’s the best result this year (Andy Roddick is a record holder in this category, since last year with 18 cosecutive wins in the tie-breaks). “When I won the second tiebreak, I had a great injection of hope,” said Lopez. “In the last set, he didn’t look 100 per cent fit” – at 2:3 down in the fourth set, Del Potro started to stagger because of a strain in his thigh. After medical time-out lost his serve and it was crucial point not only for that match but for the whole Davis Cup final.
Argentinian doubles is the weakest link in the team, but David Nalbanian and Agustin Calleri were very close on Satrurday to lead 2-1 in sets against duo Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco who are very experienced in tigh Davis Cup matches, and are dangerous for the best doubles teams in the world. At 1-1 in sets, the Spaniards had wasted set point on Verdasco’s serve at 5:1, and later found themselves at 1:5 down in the tie-break! Nalbandian served a double fault in that moment, began to argue with the chair umpire, and completely lost the concetration. The Spaniards won another 5 points what gave them the set and the fourth set easily, albeit they wasted double match point on Verdasco’s serve in the 7th game. Final score: 5-7 7-5 7-6 6-3 for the left-handed Spaniards.
In the first rubber on Sunday, team captains, Alberto Mancini (Argentina) and Emilio Sanchez (Spain) decided to change nominal players. Jose Acasuso had to replace injured Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Verdasco replaced David Ferrer.
“When Ferrer found out he was not playing, he took it well,” said Sanchez. “He immediately offered his support to Fernando which helped him come out on court.”
It was just second encounter of these two players but first indoor. After dropping the first set 3-6, Acasuso won second and third set, despite losing his service games twice in both sets, to give the hope for the loud Argentinian spctators. Unfortunately for them, “Chucho” lost his serve at 2:3 down in the fourth set. In the next game the Argentinian had double break point but wasted chances, his last in the match. After the end of the fourth set, Acasuso took a medical time-out because of abdominal strain. Fifth set was one-sided, Verdasco quickly raced to a 4:0 lead and converted third match point with his best stroke – forehand down the line to win almost four-hour match 6-3 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-1.
“I was more relaxed after the fourth set,” said Verdasco who fulfilled his childhood dream of winning Davis Cup for Spain. “I understood we needed tactics to win the match and I realised that he was tired so I took advantage of making him run.”
Acasuso as the first player in history has lost twice decisive rubber in Davis Cup final, two years ago he was beaten by Marat Safin the the fifth rubber of the final between Russian and Argentina in Moscow. In turn, Fernando Verdasco has been 25th player in the Open Era who won decisive rubber in Davis Cup final, only four players have won that final match twice (Stan Smith, John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Mark Phiippoussis).
Spain has won Davis Cup for the third time in six final appearances (lost finals in 1965, 1967 and 2003, losing to Australia on all three occasions), has triumphed every four years with different squad in the finals on each occasion since lifting the trophy for the first time in 2000 with victory on clay in Barcelona over Australia (Juan Carlos Ferrero, Albert Costa played in singles, Alex Corretja, Juan Balcells in doubles); it defeated the USA on its favored clay in Seville in 2004 (Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya in singles, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo in doubles). In 2008 beside Ferrer, Verdasco and Lopez, Marcel Granollers (a substitute of Nadal) was the fourth member of the winning team.
Spain d. Argentina 3-1 at Mar del Plata, Argentina: Hard (Indoor)
David Ferrer (ESP) l. David Nalbandian (ARG) 3-6 2-6 3-6
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) 6-3
Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri/David Nalbandian (ARG) 5-7 7-5 7-6(5) 6-3
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Jose Acasuso (ARG) 6-3 6-7(3) 4-6 6-3 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs. David Nalbandian (ARG) Not Played