CHARLEROI, BELGIUM: Spanish tennis is in fine fettle, as witnessed by the 4-1 win over Belgium in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie.
They will now travel to the USA in July for what is arguably the plum tie of the quarterfinal round, with every confidence of going all the way and ultimately capturing a third Davis Cup title in four years.
Spain captain Albert Costa said of their trip across the Atlantic: “We know it’s going to be a very difficult one, but in sport anything can happen and we will try our best to beat them.
“We don’t have to fear anybody. We have to respect everybody, but we know that we have a strong team.”
Belgium were brushed aside, battered and bruised, long before Steve Darcis won a consolation fifth rubber on Sunday.
In all fairness, few nations could withstand the brutal onslaught so ferociously delivered by a Spanish armada, which included players ranked at No. 1 and No. 9 in the world, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. The world No. 6 David Ferrer played no part due to injury.
Few expected anything less than a win for Spain. That said, Belgium captain Reginald Willems was still able to take some positives out of the weekend. He said: “It was a fantastic final day. Ollie played very good against Nadal. Steve had a great match against Lopez.
“I think it’s good that we got a point.”
Verdasco set Spain on their way, as a late replacement for Ferrer, with a straight sets win over a below-par Xavier Malisse on Friday.
Crowd-favourite Rafael Nadal, returning to competitive tennis for the first time since injuring his leg at the Australian Open in January, chalked up Spain’s second point. The world No. 1 got the better of Ruben Bemelmans, also in three sets.
Spain secured the win when Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez shook off Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis in Saturday’s doubles, before the dead rubbers were shared on Sunday. Nadal swept past Rochus, before Darcis came from a set down to shock Lopez to prevent a second successive whitewash by Spain.
That ignominy was suffered in Seville in 2003. Malisse and Rochus were part of the Belgian side on that occasion too.
Rochus admitted that the host nation had been outclassed, but added: “It was a pity in this tie that the surface was too slow for us.”
Whether a faster court would have made any difference, one will never know. Belgium could point to key moments in the early stages of all three live rubbers, when Spain briefly dropped their guard. All too often, though, the home team failed to capitalise on the few chances which fell their way.
Spain will face tougher opposition in this year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, but there can be fewer teams in world tennis with the kind of talent pool available to Albert Costa. He also has world No. 12 Nicolas Almagro available to him.
Costa told me: “We have a lot of players with a lot talent, and a good mentality. They also have experience in Davis Cup, which is important. I’m lucky because of that.”
Luck played no part in this victory. The Spanish talent was there for all to see.
Captain Albert Costa (ESP) - 06/03/2011
Steve Darcis (BEL) - 06/03/2011
Captain Reginald Willems (BEL) - 06/03/2011
Olivier Rochus (BEL) - 6/3/11