New Davis Cup has re­tained its soul: Pique

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

L-R: Spain's Mar­cel Gra­nollers, Feli­ciano Lopez, Pablo Car­reno, Roberto Bautista Agut, Rafael Nadal and cap­tain Sergi Bruguera cel­e­brate with the tro­phy after win­ning the fi­nal against Canada in Madrid on Sun­day

Madrid, Spain - Rafael Nadal put the fin­ish­ing touches to his ex­tra­or­di­nary year by clinch­ing a sixth Davis Cup ti­tle for Spain on Sun­day as he beat De­nis Shapo­valov in Madrid to seal vic­tory over Canada.

Nadal's 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Shapo­valov in front of an ador­ing home crowd at the Caja Mag­ica gave Spain an unas­sail­able 2-0 lead after Roberto Bautista Agut ear­lier bat­tled past Felix Auger-Alias­sime 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

The 33 year old had been an un­stop­pable force in Spain's pul­sat­ing semi­fi­nal against Bri­tain on Satur­day and never looked like let­ting this chance slip, with King Felipe VI and Real Madrid's Ser­gio Ramos watch­ing on, along with Barcelona de­fender Ger­ard Pique.

Pique's mar­ket­ing com­pany Kos­mos has been at the heart of the raft of changes to this 119-year old com­pe­ti­tion but Nadal's bril­liance has been fa­mil­iar, even if this will surely go

down as one of the finest sea­sons of the 19-time Grand Slam cham­pion's sparkling ca­reer.

He added a fourth Davis Cup fi­nal suc­cess - three more than Roger Fed­erer - to the ones he claimed in 2004, 2009 and 2011, while cap­ping a re­mark­able 12 months that has in­cluded win­ning the French and US Opens, and end­ing the year as world No 1. The Span­ish team also claimed a cheque worth US$2.1mn.

Nadal won eight out of eight rub­bers played this week and at times on Satur­day, as when he stormed to sin­gles and dou­bles vic­to­ries against Bri­tain, it was tempt­ing to view Spain's progress as some­thing of a solo ef­fort. But, un­like Canada, Spain have used all five of its squad, with Bautista Agut, Pablo Car­reno Busta and Feli­ciano Lopez all play­ing at least one sin­gles match, and Lopez and Mar­cel Gra­nollers join­ing forces in the dou­bles.

Bautista Agut's win over

Auger-Alias­sime was par­tic­u­larly poignant, given the world No 9 was re­turn­ing after with­draw­ing from the team on Thurs­day, fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther Joaquin. "I could not have played to­day with­out all the work of my team­mates this week," said Bautista Agut.

"After such a com­pli­cated week, I had to get out there and face it. Ev­ery­thing was dif­fi­cult to­day but I man­aged to over­come it and get the first point for Spain."

Shapo­valov, mean­while, had ousted Nadal at the Canada Masters when they first met in 2017 but he was no match here for the vet­eran's power and sheer force of will.

A blis­ter­ing fore­hand on the run set up the de­ci­sive break in the first set, which Nadal served out when Shapo­valov hit long.

The young­ster had a break point early in the se­cond but

slapped his re­turn into the net and Nadal held on, sur­viv­ing a nine-minute game when a Shapo­valov re­trieval plopped out. Shapo­valov opted for more va­ri­ety with a bril­liant touch vol­ley and then a deft drop-shot mak­ing things in­creas­ingly un­com­fort­able for Nadal, who came un­der pres­sure when serv­ing to stay in the set both at 5-4 and 6-5.

In the tie-break, Shapo­valov led early but missed a short fore­hand for 4-2. In­stead, Nadal won four of the next five to tee up two points for the ti­tle. He looked sure to con­vert the first, on serve, but Shapo­valov ripped a fore­hand pass.

Two big serves saw Shapo­valov save the se­cond and then cre­ate a set point of his own. But Nadal saved it for 7-7 and a re­turn into the net gave him a third cham­pi­onship point.

When a Shapo­valov fore­hand hit the tape, Nadal fell on his back, his arms out­stretched.

Madrid, Spain - Ger­ard Pique claimed on Sun­day the new Davis Cup has pre­served the emo­tion and drama of the old for­mat while in­sist­ing at­ten­dances will im­prove next year.

Pique, the Barcelona de­fender at the fore­front of changes made to the com­pe­ti­tion, hailed this week's tour­na­ment as lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a 'unique and in­cred­i­ble event' in the fu­ture.

But poor turnouts for some of the group-stage ties, par­tic­u­larly in the morn­ing ses­sions, have been a ma­jor con­cern while other prob­lems, in­clud­ing painfully late fin­ishes, mean there is room for im­prove­ment.

"The most im­por­tant thing by far is the soul of the Davis Cup," said Pique, whose mar­ket­ing com­pany Kos­mos have a 25-year deal to run the com­pe­ti­tion with the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion.

"I see the play­ers cel­e­brat­ing when they qual­ify, laugh­ing and en­joy­ing, and at the same time, when they lose, they are in tears.

"There is no event in the year in ten­nis that you can see that - even in the Grand Slams I don't see play­ers cry­ing when they lose. From this base we can or­gan­ise an in­cred­i­ble and unique event in the fu­ture."

"There were a lot of peo­ple wait­ing to see what will hap­pen and then de­cide for next year's (tour­na­ment)," Pique said. "But it's also true that peo­ple from all the coun­tries have trav­elled - Kaza­khstan, Nether­lands, Bel­gium.

"I'm sure that for next year we will im­prove a lot be­cause now peo­ple know what to ex­pect from this new for­mat."

Madrid will host the Davis Cup fi­nals again in 2020.

"We have a lot of dif­fer­ent op­tions on the ta­ble (for 2021)," said Pique. "Madrid al­ready ex­pressed in­ter­est in do­ing another year. We have in­ter­est from Asia, from North Amer­ica, South Amer­ica. So we will de­cide in the next months."

(AFP)

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