December 4, 2011

Hail the Conquering Heroes

What a ride it's been for the Spanish Davis Cup team.

After two years atop the world, they were unceremoniously ousted from the 2010 draw in the quarters, losing all five of their rubbers to France. But this year they reasserted their dominance and came out in front again.

Rafael Nadal, though not unsuccessful by any means this year, hasn't been quite the force he was in previous years. Though he ends the year at #2, he hasn't won a title since Roland Garros, and with only three trophies in total he's marked his least prolific season since 2004. After failing to get out of the round robins at the year-end championships, he might have lost a bit of his spunk. But he came out firing in Seville on Friday, dropping just four games to Argentina's Juan Monaco in the first singles rubber of the weekend.

Next up London semifinalist David Ferrer was forced to endure a grueling battle against 2009 U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro, getting a break early, but suddenly finding himself down two sets to one. The pair traded breaks in the fourth and the fifth, but the Spaniard was finally able to convert in both and, after nearly five hours, gave his team the two-rubber lead.

Saturday's match, which pitted Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez against veteran David Nalbandian and doubles specialist Eduardo Schwank, proved to be Spain's only hiccup this weekend. The usually strong Lopez was broken four times that day and the Argentines capitalized on the twenty-six errors made by their opponents to win the match in straight sets, taking just under two hours to do so.

But the Spaniards were back firing on Sunday, when Nadal met with Del Potro in the reverse singles match. Though DelPo had notched three straight wins against the former world #1 in 2009, since returning from injury this year, he's only taken a single set from his rival. Despite his long battle on Friday, the Argentine was able to take advantage of some weak serving by Nadal in the first set -- he won all games on return and took the early lead. But Rafa came back in the second, took the lead into the fourth, and survived a set which included eight breaks before dominating the tiebreak. Another four hours on court and Nadal had closed out the match and the championship with a four-set win over the big guy.

The win secured for Spain its fifth Davis Cup crown -- all earned in this new century. It seems only appropriate the country should be so dominant, with six players in the top thirty and another seven in the top hundred. With the depth of talent on the team, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more trophies come their way in the near future. And this particular win could spark some even more dominance from these players throughout the rest of the season.

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