Against all odds, Spain are Davis Cup champions
Fernando Verdasco emerged as Spain’s unlikely hero as the visitors claimed their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 victory over Argentina in Mar del Platas Estadio Polideportivo Islas Malvinas.
Verdasco, Spain’s fourth-choice singles player behind the absent world No.1 Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez, came through an emotional five-set encounter 6-3 6-7(3) 4-6 6-2 6-1 against Jose Acasuso, deputising for Juan Martin del Potro.
Spain are making a healthy habit of winning the title in Olympic years – Verdasco now joins fellow Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero, who sealed their first title against Australia in 2000, and Carlos Moya, who beat Andy Roddick in 2004 in Madrid.
Unfortunately for Argentina, they must wait at least another year to shake off their ‘best tennis nation not to win the Davis Cup’ tag.
Argentina must wait at least another year to drop their ‘best nation not to win the Davis Cup’ tag…
After entering the tie as favourites – playing at home, where they hadn’t lost for ten years, against a Spanish side missing Nadal – the hosts’ fortunes cruelly changed when del Potro developed a thigh injury during his match against Feliciano Lopez on Friday.
Lopez went on to win the rubber and level the tie, and despite receiving intensive treatment on Saturday, the Argentine No.1 could not recover in time to play in the reverse singles fixtures.
That, combined with Argentina’s doubles defeat, thrust world No.48 Jose Acasuso into the must-win fourth rubber against Verdasco, selected following Ferrer’s morale-boosting doubles win with Lopez.
The promotion seemed to be working early on. Verdasco became the first Spaniard to claim the first set of a rubber in the final as he broke to love in game six, while Acasuso struggled to keep his emotions in check, looking to captain Mancini for support throughout.
The Argentine began the second set in inspired form, while Verdasco’s serve proved to be particularly shaky, though the standard of play became sloppy as the pressure of the occasion weighed heavily on both men.
A double fault handed Acasuso a break for a 2-0 lead, but a break in concentration following a HawkEye challenge allowed the Spaniard back into the set. A further exchange of breaks could not separate them ahead of a tiebreak, won to raucous applause by the Argentine.
Nerves took over in the third set, and while Verdasco might have been expected to win comfortably under any other circumstances, the magnitude of the occasion appeared to hit the Spaniard harder than Acasuso, buoyed by the energy of the 10,000-strong home crowd.
The Argentine profited while the general standard of the tennis dropped significantly, getting the better of five breaks of serve to claim the set 6-4 and put Argentina ahead.
“It’s like a dream come true and maybe the most beautiful day of my life” – Verdasco
All that changed the fourth. Verdasco left the court and returned with a new focus – and a fresh approach. Recognising Acasuso’s faltering backhand, the Spaniard played with greater tactical awareness, and made the most of his chances with forehand winner after winner, closing the set out in emphatic fashion and silencing the partizan crowd.
Acasuso returned the chair and called for the trainer for treatment to what appeared to be an abdominal strain. But, with the title on the line, he returned to court in an effort to overhaul the momentum currently carrying the Spaniard.
It was not to be. Verdasco was relentless in the final set, racing out to a 4-0 lead before Acasuso stopped the rot. It merely delayed the inevitable, however, as Verdasco eventually broke at the third time of asking to seal the match, tie, and 2008 Davis Cup.
“We’ll celebrate with a lot of wine” – Emilio Sanchez
“It’s like a dream come true and maybe the most beautiful day of my life,” said Verdasco afterwards. “I tried my best all year to win the Davis Cup, and I am happy for everyone in Spain.
“I was waiting for my chances to attack, but when I saw the match was going badly and I was going to lose I thought I would try everything I could to turn it around. If it didn’t work then OK, but I wanted to try my best – and in the end it worked.”
Spain captain Emilio Sanchez was overcome following the result. “It’s amazing – it was an incredible match of ups and downs. In the end Fernando was the better player.
“It was very tough for us because Fernando was fighting with the crowd and not listening to us!” Sanchez admitted. “But he has been playing at a higher level than Acasuso all season and is very strong physically. He wasn’t even tired. We’ll celebrate with a lot of wine.”
Davis Cup final results:
Argentina 1-3 Spain
Spain are the 2008 Davis Cup champions
David Nalbandian beat David Ferrer 6-3 6-2 6-3
Juan Martin del Potro lost to Feliciano Lopez 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) 6-3
Nalbandian/Calleri lost to Lopez/Verdasco 5-7 7-5 7-6(5) 6-3
Jose Acasuso lost to Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-7(3) 4-6 6-2 6-1
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