SEVILLE, SPAIN: Classic Rafa came out for the opening match of the Davis Cup Final as he swept to a 61 61 62 victory over a beaten Juan Monaco.
It was always going to be a miracle should the world No. 26 Argentine have found a chink in his friend's armour and he barely found any. Twice the Spaniard had Monaco on the floor as he pulled and pushed his opponent all over the court, and the lively stadium were brought to its feet in the fifth game of the third set when Rafa's explosive tennis caused Monaco to collapse in pain.
Spain brings out another gruelling player David Ferrer for the second rubber, and Argentina must look to Juan Martin del Potro for a win in what has naturally been tipped as the match of the day. Should Spain go 2-0 up by this evening, the pressure on Davis Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank for Saturday's doubles rubber will be excruciating.
As it happened...
* Denotes next server
SPAIN WINS 6-1 6-1 6-2
Nadal 6-1 6-1 6-2 Monaco
Rafa exhausts his friend to the very last point, back and forth, back and forth, and it takes its toll with a love game that finishes the opening match. Succinct celebrations for Rafa before he shakes hands with all his teammates. Monaco is unsurpisingly, done in.
Nadal* 6-1 6-1 5-2 Monaco
Nadal breaks and is now one game away from taking the opening match in straight sets. I think it's fair to say that there's little chance of Monaco forcing a fourth set.
Del Potro, Nalbandian and Schwank have been missing from the bench for quite some time now, whereas Rafa's got Verdasco, Lopez and Granollers all regularly on their feet getting behind their teammate. Rafa's also directing his eyes alot of the time at his agent Carlos Costa and idol and best friend Carlos Moya.
Nadal 6-1 6-1 4-2 Monaco*
A lazy attempt at a volley from Nadal but this game is helped by two unforced errors from Monaco. A subsequent change of rackets for the Argentine.
Nadal* 6-1 6-1 3-2 Monaco
Game of the match as the two guys throw everything into it and it's Monaco that ends up twice on the floor, at one point bent double in pain and Tito comes on to pick him up. The whole stadium winces in defeat for Monaco's loss. Back at the bench and the trainer is on tending to a cut knee but Monaco doesn't look great. Fantastic rallies and incredible volley exchange from both players. Extraordinary stuff from Rafa as he breaks again.
Nadal 6-1 6-1 2-2 Monaco*
Costa is now arguing with the umpire about the noise the Argentines are making. They've both got their eye on this scarf-waving, orchestral contingency behind the chair.
Nadal* 6-1 6-1 1-2 Monaco
Monaco is furious as Rafa challenges a call on his serve after playing the point, Tito gets out of his seat to discuss with the umpire while trying to calm down the Argentine and the crowd get behind their man. When Monaco takes the game, he lets loose the pent-up frustration with a fist pump towards his fans.
Nadal 6-1 6-1 1-1 Monaco*
Monaco again pushes Rafa to deuce but he just can't quite get the better of the world No. 2.
Nadal* 6-1 6-1 0-1 Monaco
Neat little volley exchange at the net for Pico to go 30-0 up and it seems to rouse him out of his hell. At least for a brief moment. He holds serve though, with thanks to a couple of tight unforced errors from Rafa.
There was a bit of a chat going on between the two captains and umpire Pascal Maria at the changeover, maybe about the noise? There's been some interruptions from this lively crowd on a number of occasions.
SECOND SET SPAIN 6-1 6-1
Nadal 6-1 6-1 Monaco*
First stupid mistake from Rafa as he nets an easy return volley to lose the second point and he raises his eyebrows almost in embarrassment. He makes a better job of it later with yet another cheeky drop shot, something he's using alot in this match. Spain goes up two sets to love and Monaco has practically got his head between his knees on the bench. He's probably wishing the match will soon be over.
Nadal* 6-1 5-1 Monaco
Monaco shanks a return at deuce and the ball hits the roof. The Argentine has no answers to Rafa's game in this match. Lots of debate going on on Davis Cup Radio as to whether Monaco should even have been brought in for this match with the impossibility of a win.
Nadal 6-1 4-1 Monaco*
It's one-way traffic for Rafa now. Perhaps the pressure of his first Davis Cup final is getting to Monaco, as well as Rafa just being too, too good.
Nadal* 6-1 3-1 Monaco
Forehand passing shot from Rafa to go 30-15 has the whole stadium in unison on their feet!! Shot of the match so far! Monaco is hurting from the shot and Rafa breaks again to take the game.
Nadal 6-1 2-1 Monaco*
Nadal* 6-1 1-1 MonacoEncouraging game from Monaco as he takes it 40-15. Argentina is finally back on the board.
Nadal 6-1 1-0 Monaco*
Just having a look at some of the flags round the stadium, of which there are hundreds. Someone right in the far top corner is waving a flag saying Mar del Plata (great memories) and.............that's about as much as I can understand.
FIRST SET SPAIN 6-1
Nadal* 6-1 Monaco
That's it, Rafa breaks to take the first set in 48 minutes. Monaco's looking pretty burnt out and there's alot of animated chat going on on that side of the umpire, while Albert Costa's just chilling out with Rafa.
Nadal 5-1 Monaco*
Monaco wins first two points off Nadal's serve but he loses them to some classic Rafa, equipped with some fist pumping. Who says Rafa's not into this final. Monaco hangs in there though to push the Spaniard to deuce but ends up in a frustrated heap when he nets a backhand volley.
Nadal* 4-1 Monaco
Monaco scrambles for a drop volley but can't reach it giving Rafa advantage, and the Argentine fails to save his third break point and nets a forehand. Momentum is well in the Spanish camp. Pico is reaching out to Vazquez at the change of ends.
Nadal 3-1 Monaco*
Gorgeous drop volley from Rafa to hold serve. One corner of the stadium full of Argentines were causing a bit of a kerfuffle at the start of this game, even Monaco and captain Tito Vazquez were raising their hands to ask them to quieten down. Umpire Pascal Maria is in the chair so we're in safe hands.
Nadal* 2-1 Monaco
Monaco nets after a long, long baseline exchange bringing up two break points for Spain and Rafa seals it, sending down a blistering forehand that Monaco just can't get to.
Nadal 1-1 Monaco*
Love game from Rafa. Beautiful play from the world No. 2, dragging Monaco back and forth along the baseline. They both look splendid I have to say, Rafa's in his national colours, the usual gold headband and red shirt. Pico's in royal blue with white trimmings and ARGENTINA emblazoned across his back.
Nadal* 0-1 Monaco
Eight minute opening game and Monaco manages to save three break points and get the first game with an ace. Could this set the trend for the match? Feels like we're already halfway in.
Carlos Moya is here sitting behind me. Must be nice for him to be back here after the final in 2004.
13:50: It's official, I'm at the world's biggest fancy dress party. Prize so far goes to Argentina's very own Willy Wonka.
So the teams are being welcomed on court in front of a sea of photographers. HUGE cheer for Rafa.
13:35: Welcome to the Davis Cup Final everyone! 30 minutes til kick off, the stands aren't even half full yet with everyone still arriving, but it's pretty loud already. The Argentines have taken over most of the stadium - for now - the rest are on Spanish time. Time for some noise-cancelling headphones. Remember to listen in to Davis Cup Radio this weekend, with our regular commentators Craig Gabriel, Chris Bowers and Eli Weinstein. And email in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy.......!
Rafael Nadal (ESP) - 02/12/2011