OVIEDO, SPAIN: Spain confirmed its status as the leading nation in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas by completing a 5-0 whitewash of Kazakhstan on the final day of the first round tie between the two World Group nations.
The defending champions had sealed their place in April’s quarterfinals after impressive performances from Juan Carlos Ferrero and Nicolas Almagro in the singles on Friday, and Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers in yesterday’s doubles, but returned to the Palacio del los Deportes de Oviedo determined to show that they have the depth needed to retain the Davis Cup in 2012.
Evgeny Korolev replaced the injured Mikhail Kukushkin for Kazakhstan for the first of the reverse dead singles rubbers, hoping for a better performance on the court that he’d mustered in yesterday’s doubles. But Almagro, the Spanish No. 1, although not at the level he showed against Andrey Golubev on Friday, was too consistent for the Kazakh No. 3, needing just a single break of serve in the fifth game to take the first set 6-3.
Korolev stayed with Almagro throughout the second set, until forced to serve to stay in the match at 4-5. Fashioning match point off a Korolev error, Almagro converted it to win his fifth Davis Cup singles rubber 63 64 and put Spain 4-0 ahead.
The fifth and final rubber played out between Golubev and Granollers, making his Davis Cup singles debut. The 25-year-old Barcelona native did not disappoint, breaking to lead 3-1 in the opening set, before serving it out 63 as Golubev tried and failed to find a way back in to the match.
The Kazakh stirred into life briefly in the second set, breaking the Granollers serve to love to lead 4-2. But the Spaniard, urged on by the home crowd and their Mexican waves, responded by breaking straight back. Still, Golubev clung on, saving a break point to stay ahead 6-5, and levelling the match at one set all 7-2 in the tiebreak.
Unfortunately for Golubev, it merely delayed the inevitable, Granollers breaking in the second game of the third set, and producing a big first serve and smash combination to complete the whitewash 63 67(2) 63.
“When you start, you always dream to win, and if it’s 5-0 it’s even better,” Corretja said. "The main thing for me was to win, but today it’s important, when you go on the court you need to try your best, so I’m pleased to see that we also won again…thanks to all the team."
“Since the first day, we practise very well, we prepared the tie very focused, never easy to play on clay again after such a long time since the last tournament,” said Ferrero, who celebrated his 32nd birthday today. “It’s always nice to win 5-0, we expect that, but always you have to show it on the court, so we’re very happy about it.”
The defending champions’ next assignment will be a home tie against Austria in April.
Captain Corretja knows that it will be a very different proposition given the strength of Austria’s singles players, but has been encouraged by his team’s attitude this week, not to mention the number and variety of players he is able to call upon.
“There is only one team, we only have one team, but we have different players,” Corretja said. “We just use one team, and of course you need to pick players dependent on the surfaces, on the opponent, and that’s the only thing we play for, we don’t care about the other stuff, we just focus on our tennis.”
“It’s great to play home, of course, but lots of respect to Austria, they did great today, congratulate them, because it’s been a fantastic weekend for them as well, they had Russia at home which wasn’t easy, so it’s going to be interesting for us,” Corretja said.
Kazakhstan meanwhile head with their eyes wide open into the World Group play-offs in September as they bid to keep their place in the World Group for 2013.
Captain Alex Corretja (ESP) - 12/02/2012
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) - 12/02/2012
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) - 12/02/2012