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03 December 2011

Argentina have a point to prove


MATCH REPORT

Photo: Paul ZimmerDavid Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank (ARG)


SEVILLE, SPAIN: An outstanding performance from David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank in Saturday’s doubles rubber has forced the 2011 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final in Seville into a third day. Argentina’s scratch pairing embarrassed Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco into a 64 62 63 defeat, meaning the Final heads into Sunday’s first match between, as it stands, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro with Spain leading 2-1.

Nalbandian and Roland Garros doubles runner-up Schwank may have only ever played one tournament together back in 2008, but they still came into the match as slight favourites, largely due to the man from Cordoba, Nalbandian. A magical Davis Cup player, the 29 year-old pulled his best out of the bag for this match and was barely faultless with the solid support of his doubles specialist partner.

“That’s Davis Cup,” said the veteran. “I really like it, I play better when I’m playing for my country and today we both played a great match from the beginning and it was unbelievable for us.”

The favourite tag was also embellished with the seven-match losing streak that Lopez and Verdasco brought into Saturday’s doubles rubber. The Spaniards, once such a tour de force on the doubles court, have struggled lately, losing 17 of their last 20 matches and now adding another humiliating defeat to their recent form - and for the second match in a row. In September’s semifinal against France, the Spaniards were crushed 61 62 60 by Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, also on clay.

For Verdasco, it was really not his day. The former world No. 7 was literally over the place and his ever-growing error-strewn game only incited more reason for his opponents to target his weak spot. Out of form and out of mind, it came down to Lopez to hold the fort as much as possible but even then it was not enough to break the searing focus of Nalbandian and Schwank.

Argentina’s first break of the match came in the fifth game of the first set and it was when the visitors held serve to lead 5-4 that Nalbandian really came into his own, salvaging a momentary shaky Schwank and a lost set point to set up another and draw first blood 6-4. The Argentineans then won the next four games, while Verdasco was being pulled through the ringer, throwing down his racket and furiously berating himself as Spain went further and further out of the second set.

It wasn’t until the latter stages of the third set that the Spanish had any chance of a way in. Two missed volleys from Schwank allowed the Spaniards to level at 30-all, which had Verdasco in an exaggerate frenzy and the Spanish crowd back in the game. They went on to earn two break points but unsurprisingly Nalbandian shut down the party and whipped up one of his own around the stadium. Argentina finally broke Feliciano Lopez’s serve in the last game to see out victory just short of two hours.

“Nothing was working today,” said Lopez. “All I can do is accept this.” Verdasco felt equally deflated: "There are just days that things don't go through, and today was one of those days.  I really did try and fight all the time, and it was not possible this time."

Like the previous day, each point of the match set off a ricochet of chanting around the Estadio Olimpico and twice in the first set did the crowd have to receive a warning from the stadium announcer and later from umpire Carlos Ramos. Lopez and Verdasco had stepped out for the start of the match which what seemed like the weight of the world on the shoulders, and given the atmosphere and the extremely confident demeanour of Nalbandian and Schwank, anyone would have thought Argentina was in front in this Final.

But far from it. Captain Tito Vazquez has a huge decision to make ahead of the reverse singles on who might have the better chance against Nadal, who simply outclassed Juan Monaco on Friday. The current line-up sees del Potro take up the challenge with Nalbandian saved for the fifth rubber should it go down to the wire. After today’s performance however, there were mutterings of Nalbandian perhaps having the greater fight to take on Nadal, given del Potro’s knackered state after being run ragged by Ferrer in five sets. Good news for Argentina though: he “feels good”, he says.

David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank (ARG) - 03/12/2011

Captain Tito Vazquez (ARG) - 03/12/2011

Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco (ESP) - 03/12/2011

Captain Albert Costa (ESP) - 03/12/2011

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    • David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank (ARG)David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank (ARG)
    • Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco (ESP)Tito Vazquez (ARG)
    • Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez (ESP)Spanish bench
    • Fernando Verdasco (ESP)Eduardo Schwank and David Nalbandian (ARG)
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