Nadal delivers for Spain
Spanish hero clinches Davis Cup with epic win in Seville
Last Updated: 04/12/11 5:23pm
Rafael Nadal claimed a fifth Davis Cup title for Spain in the last 11 years with an enthralling victory over Juan Martin Del Potro on Sunday.
Spain led Argentina 2-1 after the first two days' play in Seville and the world number two was tasked with taking them over the line against the former US Open champion.
But it all looked to be going wrong for Nadal in front of a boisterous crowd when he lost the first set to Del Potro 6-1.
Nadal clinches it for Spain
However, he was galvanised by the support of the squad courtside as he fought back to win 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-6 in a match lasting more than four hours.
Del Potro had the chance to take it to a deciding set when he served for the fourth set at 5-3, but Nadal broke back and after two more dramatic breaks of serve the Spaniard took the tie-break 7-0 to send the crowd into a frenzy.
"It was a very emotional match and I am happy for the team," said Nadal. "It was the most amazing atmosphere I have ever played in. The crowd were crazy. Everything was perfect.
"It was complicated at the start of the match, but the beginning of the second set was very important and at 1-0 and 40-0 that was the turning point for me."
The result was hard on a tearful Del Potro, who went down in five sets to David Ferrer on Friday, and indeed Argentina, who were losing a final for a record fourth time.
Nadal started the match in typically impressive fashion, breaking his opponent in the first game - that it would be his only success of the set would have seemed impossibly far-fetched at the time, but Del Potro soon started to take charge.
He levelled matters at 1-1 with a break of his own, the decisive shot a close line call, then continued to triumph in the key points.
A held serve and an unforced Nadal error made it 3-1 to the world number 11, who then survived break point on his own serve to go three games in front.
Nadal surrendered serve for the third time having initially gone 0-40 behind and the decisive game, although closely contested, fell Del Potro's way to seal the set 6-1 in just over an hour.
Nadal lost his serve to love in the first game of the next set, some neat winners and a fortunate ricochet off the net continuing Del Potro's run.
He was soon 40-0 ahead in the second game but Nadal was somehow jolted back to form and won the next five points to make the break - and take only his second game from the nine to date.
The Spaniard was getting stronger and the scoring followed serve until Nadal was 5-4 ahead.
He sensed his chance to disrupt the Del Potro serve and, having engineered set point, he converted with a decisive smash and lively celebrations. Energised, he picked up the first three games of the next set, breaking his opponent with some forceful strokes.
Del Potro got on the scoreboard by holding the fourth game, but that aside it was all Nadal and he coasted to 6-1 to lead two sets to one.
By now the Argentinian looked shot, while Nadal's early lethargy had seemingly disappeared. But any suggestion of a one-sided finale was blown away by a dramatic fourth set that tested the mental strength of both men.
At 3-3 there had already been four breaks of serve, before Del Potro served to love to go 4-3 in front.
Yet another break of the Nadal serve, coming after a superb rally, made it 5-3 and gave a rejuvenated Del Potro hope of a fifth set.
Serving to level the match he once again found his rival's returns too strong, allowing the Spaniard to convert break point with a forehand pass at the net.
A rare solid service game made it 5-5, which became 6-5 after Del Potro's serve again gave way.
This time Nadal was serving for both set and match - not to mention the cup itself - only for a shattered Del Potro to provide another dramatic twist and force the tie-break.
His luck and his energy was now gone, though, and he lost all seven points to hand Nadal, and his country, the win.
"Today is one of the most emotional days of my career," added Nadal, who was winning a third Davis Cup. "After such a difficult year, this was a spectacular finale to the season. To win a final this way is very special."