New Davis Cup has retained its soul: Pique
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."