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14 September 2013

Nadal helps Spain maintain World Group status


By Stuart Fraser

Photo: Daniel MaurerRafael Nadal (ESP) and Marc Lopez (ESP)

MADRID, SPAIN: It is the icing on the cake for Rafael Nadal. After a long six weeks on the road, the world No. 2 can return to his home in Mallorca on Sunday with two ATP titles, a Grand Slam and the contentment that he has helped Spain secure its place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for the eighteenth successive year.

This was a remarkable effort from a man who was described by his captain Alex Corretja after day one as coming from “a different planet”. Impressively shaking off the jet lag from his transatlantic trip from New York to Madrid, Nadal returned to the court for the doubles, teaming up with Marc Lopez to beat Denys Molchanov and Sergiy Stakhovsky 62 67(6) 63 64 and seal a 3-0 victory against Ukraine in the World Group play-off.

In reality, Spain should expect to be playing at a higher level in the competition than this but Corretja was delighted nonetheless that his team quickly and efficiently got the job done.

“Obviously we always like to fight to get into the final and not to stay in the World Group but that was the case this year,” he said. “We needed to stay in the World Group, we fought for that and we stay. Hopefully next year it’s going to be a different story.”

Nadal was playing doubles in Davis Cup for the first time since 2006 and he and good friend Lopez got off to a storming start, racing to a 40 lead before clinching the set in 31 minutes as Nadal played a stunning angled drop volley.

After staving off some pressure on serve in the second game of the second set, all appeared to be going well for the hosts as Nadal and Lopez went 31 up but two poor stop-volley attempts by Lopez, who appeared to lose his focus, allowed the Ukrainian pair to claim the break back and a stunning forehand from Molchanov down the line past Nadal on set point in the second set tiebreak saw the visitors draw level.

As a tight third set progressed on serve, the crowd at the Caja Magica became a bit edgy but Nadal and Lopez struck at the crucial moment as Lopez hit an unreturnable forehand pass for 53 and Nadal then served the set out, hitting two trademark forehands down the line on both sides in the process.

Although Molchanov and Stakhovsky hung in there, Nadal and Lopez broke for 43 in the fourth set after a lengthy rally ended with Molchanov hitting wide. It was somewhat fitting that Nadal was given the opportunity to serve the match out and he made no mistake.

“The doubles are always up and down in Davis Cup - very long matches and on clay even more so.” said Nadal, who will not play in the dead rubbers on Sunday.

“We started great, then we played a few bad games in the second set when we had everything under control. The positive thing is that in the last two sets we played with the right attitude, we were able to win the confrontation and the goal is done, we stay in the World Group for another year.”

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Captain Alex Corretja (ESP) - 14/09/2013

Rafael Nadal (ESP) - 14/09/2013

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