CHARLEROI, BELGIUM: The Belgian pairing of Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis proved tough nuts to crack, but crack they eventually did, as Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez fired Spain to an unassailable 3-0 lead in their David Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie, winning 76 64 63.
Having lost both singles rubbers convincingly on Friday, Belgium needed to conjure up something special in order to give Sunday’s reverse singles some meaning.
For periods, it looked like being a close-run thing. The first set was settled on a tiebreak (7-0) in Spain’s favour. This came after an enforced break toward the end of the first set, when half the lights went out in the Spiroudome, forcing umpire Pascal Maria to halt play temporarily.
The gloom rarely lifted for Belgium after that, as Lopez and Verdasco – ranked No. 95 and No. 196 respectively in the doubles rankings – turned the screw when it mattered. Darcis is ranked No. 531 and Rochus No. 592.
One break of serve, in game ten, handed the visitors the second set 64, before Lopez and Verdasco raced through the third set 63.
In between, there were moments to savour for the home side. The crowd came alive when the Belgian pair produced two delicious lob shots in the first set – no mean feat against the towering Spaniards.
There was a stunning forehand service return from Darcis in game ten of the first set, and a breath-taking pass down the line from Rochus in set three at the end of a heart-stopping rally. By this stage, though, the end was nigh, indicated by the growing hordes of Rafa fans lurking by the Spanish team seats, pens and programmes in hand.
Rochus said afterwards: “I was out there with one of my best friends (Darcis). We have known each other since we were six or seven years old, so to be here on the Saturday – against the best team, and with nothing to lose – it was fantastic.
“For about ten minutes in the third set we were playing some amazing shots. We were having a lot of fun, but it’s still tough to lose in straight sets.”
Crumbs of comfort for Belgium, as Spain’s class shone through in the end with victory in just over two and a half hours, though Verdasco admitted that the scoreline flatters them a little.
He told me: “It was close. We struggled a little bit in the first set, before playing a very good tiebreak.
“We played a bit better in the second set, and then obviously the third set, but they played an unbelievable game at 4-0.”
Spain’s captain, Albert Costa, was a gracious victor. He commented: “In sport, everything can change on a few points. What is now 3-0 could easily have been 2-1, so we are happy.
“We have done a good job all week, and my players adapted to the court really well. It’s now time to enjoy this victory.”
Chile or USA await in the quarterfinals. Chile would be Verdasco’s opposition of choice, but on this form, Spain should be too strong for either nation.
Captain Albert Costa (ESP) - 5/3/11
Steve Darcis (BEL) - 5/3/11
Olivier Rochus (BEL) - 5/3/11
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) - 5/3/11