FRANKFURT, GERMANY: Spain suffered first round despair for the second year running in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group after scratch pairing Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber won a nerve-shredding doubles rubber to give hosts Germany an unassailable 3-0 lead in Frankfurt on Saturday.
World Tour Finals winners Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero fought desperately to keep five-times champions Spain alive after the loss of both Friday’s singles matches but they were eventually subdued as the German duo won a thriller 76 67 76 63 in the noisy Fraport Arena.
Fittingly it was veteran Tommy Haas who clinched it for Germany with a first serve that forced an error from Spain’s Verdasco after nearly three and a half hours of toe-to-toe combat.
The 35-year-old world No. 12, playing only his second Davis Cup tie in seven years, led the celebrations at the end as Germany moved into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 with a day to spare.
Germany, who last won the trophy in 1993, can now plan for a quarterfinal against France in April and Haas knows this year may be his best chance to add a Davis Cup title to his CV.
“We are going to give it a real try,” said Haas, who learned he would partner Kohlschreiber rather than Daniel Brands in the morning, said after joining his team mates in soaking captain Carsten Arriens with champagne.
“There are a lot of tough nations but it’s great fun to be part of a team that’s so hungry and talented. For me time is running out so if there’s going to be a chance it’s possibly going to be this year. I will give everything to participate.”
Spain’s new captain Carlos Moya will have to stew until September when his side face a World Group play-off tie to stay amongst the elite.
He said the 3-0 scoreline was cruel on his team.
“It was little details again,” he said. “This surface doesn’t forgive and we were punished for a few moments of doubt. The result doesn’t really show what happened out on the court.”
Feliciano Lopez’s five-set defeat on Friday had left Spain 2-0 down and facing an uphill task in the doubles to keep the tie alive.
Verdasco and Marrero could not be faulted for effort and the match was ultimately decided by the odd point here and there.
Haas and Kohlschreiber saved three set points at 4-5 in the opener before edging a tight tiebreak 7-5 but only after Davis Cup debutant Marrero had saved two set points with an audacious volley and a backhand winner.
Sadly for Marrero his double fault gifted Germany the first set.
The Spanish duo showed great tenacity to save two set points in a second set tiebreak played out in a raucous atmosphere. They also squandered three set points before converting a fourth to spark wild scenes on the bench and amongst the Spanish contingent which included Moya’s pregnant wife Carolina.
The third set was a carbon copy of the first two as once again serves proved unbreakable and another tiebreak was required to separate the two teams.
This time Germany had the edge as Kohlschreiber nailed a superb backhand on to the outer extremity of the sideline to clinch it 9-7 and put the hosts within a set of a place in the quarterfinals.
It proved a mortal blow to the Spanish resistance and when Marrero netted a tired looking forehand to drop serve in the fourth game of the fourth set there was no way back.
Taking the balls at 5-3 Haas was coolness personified as he served out to love, sparking a victory huddle with his joyful team mates as the crowd roared its approval.
"It was an incredible performance," a still-soaked Arriens said. "I had in my mind a picture of 3-0 on Saturday.
"This was the first time Tommy and Phil played together. I talked to them about it in November but they were not sure. They hadn't even practised a set together but Tommy likes to be in these situations and also Philipp."
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Captain Carsten Arriens (GER) - 01/02/2014
Tommy Haas/Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) - 01/02/14