SEVILLE, SPAIN: Rafael Nadal defeated Juan Martin del Potro 16 64 61 76(0) at Seville's Olympic Stadium on Sunday to hand Spain their fifth Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title. The classic contest lasted 4 hours 8 minutes.
Nadal was completely dominated at the start of the match as del Potro raced out of the blocks and won seven straight games to take a set and a break lead, but the world No. 2 snatched a crucial game at the start of the second set that swung the momentum.
When Nadal broke again to win the second set it looked like he was on his way to a comfortable victory. He walked through the third set and went a break up at the start of the fourth, but then del Potro, lifted by the Argentine fans, staged a remarkable comeback.
In an enthralling fourth set, which swung one way and then the other on more than a few occasions, del Potro served to take the match into a decider, only for Nadal to break back. A few moments later the Spaniard found himself serving for it, but this time del Potro broke back.
The rubber headed into a tiebreak and Nadal immediately took control, never looking back. He was utterly ruthless and completed the perfect 'golden' breaker with a winning forehand, a shot which sealed Spain's crown of Davis Cup champion for the fifth time.
As it happened...
* Denotes next server
SPAIN WINS 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-6(0)
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-6(0) Del Potro
Rafa gets the all-important mini break on the first point, but Delpo is unlucky not to pull it back when a Nadal forehand smacks into the netcord and rolls just over, giving him a 3-0 lead. That could be the final straw for Delpo. The tiebreak slips away from the Argentine with a pair of unforced errors from the back and Rafa serves it out for a golden breaker. Amazing effort from both players. Spain are the champions for a fifth time!
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-6 *Del Potro
Delpo just doesn't know when he's beaten! A huge forehand winner gets him back to 15-15 and then Rafa has a shot judged out after closer inspection from Pascal Maria. When a shank from Nadal ends up in the net, Delpo finds himself with two break points. Surely he's about to win it with his first chance when he has Nadal completely on the back foot, but no... where on earth did that pass come from. Delpo regroups and after a long rally at 30-40 he drills a forehand winner down the line. Quite simply brilliant from the Argentine. We're heading for a breaker!
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-5 Del Potro
Big forehands from Delpo, but he doesn't come forward and capitalise. He had plenty of opportunities in that game to get to the net and finish off the points. He didn't, tiredness maybe, and he paid the price. The Argentine eventually missed one forehand too many and now Rafa will serve for the Davis Cup!
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 5-5 *Del Potro
The game starts with Pascal Maria handing Argentina a warning because their fans are getting a little rowdy. Two missed forehands from Delpo hand his opponent a 30-0 lead, then Rafa puts away a smash to bring up three game points. He only needs one. A neat backhand half-volley from the baseline angles away for a winner and we're all square again.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 4-5 Del Potro
Big point at 15-15 when umpire Pascal Maria comes down from his chair to examine a ball mark. The judgment goes in favour of Delpo, but a forehand error and a double fault quickly turn things around and give Rafa a break point. An epic rally ends with both players at the net, and when Nadal slides a forehand down the line for a winner the Olympic Stadium erupts.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 3-5 *Del Potro
Delpo reaches 0-30 with a powerful backhand down the line, but back comes Rafa with a pair of big inside-out forehands. The backhand down the line worked well before, so the Argentine does it again to get break point, and then again to break. Quite remarkable. Delpo will serve to take this enthralling match into a deciding fifth set.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 3-4 Del Potro
Great couple of games for Delpo. He backs up his break with a hold to love. One enormous forehand after another. The origin of this comeback can very clearly be traced back to the Argentine supporters at the start of this set. They rallied behind their man when he was on his knees and it looked like the end was nigh, now he's right in the mix. He celebrates winning the game like a lamb might celebrate the start of spring, with jumping that defies the three-and-a-half hours he's already spent on court today.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 3-3 *Del Potro
The plot thickens as Rafa is broken to love. Nadal said on Friday that he got nervous when he tried to close the match out against Juan Monaco. Quite surprising really given how one-sided the contest was, but maybe the Spaniard is feeling similar right now.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 3-2 Del Potro
Shame for Delpo. He really needed to consolidate his break, but couldn't manage it. Rafa battled back to deuce from 40-15 and then broke on his second opportunity when Delpo sent a backhand just long. Still, at least the big Argentine is competing again now.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 2-2 *Del Potro
Delpo's got a new lease of life. Rafa nets a forehand to give him break point and he turns, fist aloft, to the huge bank of Argentine supports high up in the stand, who reciprocate the gesture with a deafening cheer. It's like déjà vu on the next point as Nadal plants a forehand in exactly the same spot, halfway up the net. Unbelievable, Delpo was dead and buried, but now he's right back in it.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 2-1 Del Potro
Long break in play before Delpo gets his service game under way. It's not just the Argentine fans this time, the whole stadium are on their feet, and it has actually given Delpo a boost. No doubt about it. For the first time in a long time the big man rolls over Nadal for a love game. Interesting, but it's still a very long way back!
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 2-0 *Del Potro
Nadal leads 40-0 and the Argentine fans spontaneously break into chorus in unison. They're doing their best for Delpo. Can that spark some life into him? Not in this game, as Nadal bowls down a big serve for yet another love game.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 6-1 1-0 Del Potro
Delpo needed a good start, a base for which to start building a comeback, but he hasn't got it. A tired looking drive volley sails long at 15-40 to gift Rafa an early break. The Spanish bench are on their feet. In contrast, the Argentine bench are seated and look resigned to defeat. Nalbandian is no longer courtside. I guess he's gone to start preparing for a match that he's not likely to play.
THIRD SET SPAIN 6-1
Nadal 1-6 6-4 6-1 0-0 *Del Potro
Relentless from Rafa. He pounds the Delpo backhand with forehand after forehand until eventually he gets one past the Argentine. That gives him three set points at 40-0 and Nadal takes a firm stranglehold on this match when Delpo immediately shanks a forehand high and wide. To be honest, it's difficult to say any way back for the former US Open champ.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 5-1 Del Potro
Delpo approaches the net at 15-15 and Rafa rips a backhand straight past him, but a wayward one from the Spaniard on the next point brings the score to 30-30. Now it's Delpo's turn to miss a backhand, although he saves the resulting break point. Rafa goes ahead again and this time he bends a forehand pass down the line for a winner, which is greeted by a grimace on the face of the Argentine.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 4-1 *Del Potro
Another routine game for Rafa, but at least Delpo finally picked up a point on the Spaniard's serve. Only one, mind you. Nadal pushed a forehand just long at 40-0, then sealed it at the second time of asking with an error from Delpo. I made that 26 unanswered points on Rafa's serve.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 3-1 Del Potro
That could have almost been the set over, but Rafa lets a 0-30 lead slip as Delpo wins four straight points for a gutsy hold. He's fighting hard is the Argentine, but he'll need to find an extra gear if he is to break Nadal back.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 3-0 *Del Potro
Rafa holds to love... again! I could be wrong, apologies if I am, but by my reckoning that's five successive holds of serve without losing a point. Complete domination. Nadal seals the game with a forehand winner that wrong foots his opponent.
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 2-0 Del Potro
Rafa wins the first point, but Delpo responds by coming into the net and angling away a backhand volley, followed by a typically huge forehand and lucky netcord winner. Nadal gets back to deuce with successive errors from Delpo, and he goes on to break thanks to a pair of identical forehand winners down the line, both curling just inside the target. Great play from the Spaniard.
Nadal 1-6 6-4 1-0 *Del Potro
After a Delpo toilet break, Rafa comes right out of the blocks where he left off, holding serve to love. The Argentine fans are somewhat quieter than they were a 20 mins ago. Their man needs to establish himself quickly in this third set otherwise there's danger that Nadal could run away with it.
SECOND SET SPAIN 6-4
Nadal* 1-6 6-4 0-0 Del Potro
The eye of the tiger is the best way I can describe the way Rafa is looking right now. He fights and scraps to get to 30-30, and when Delpo misses a short forehand he has his first set point. He only needs one. The Argentine sends up an enormous lob from out wide and the roar that goes up around the Olympic Stadium is deafening, but the ball lands in. No problem for Nadal. He completes the formality of bouncing the overhead out of the court and we're all square at one set apiece. What has Delpo got left in the tank?
Nadal 1-6 5-4 *Del Potro
Another hold to love for Rafa. Poor Delpo must think that his service games are coming around very quickly at the moment. Nadal seals the game with a backhand winner that the Argentine doesn't bother chasing down. Crucial time for Delpo coming up. He needs to dig deep and somehow find a way to win this set. The longer the match goes on the more it plays into the hands of Rafa.
Nadal* 1-6 4-4 Del Potro
Big chance missed from Rafa. He had Delpo at 30-40 and uncharacteristically dragged a forehand wide of the mark. A heavy serve gives Delpo a game point and he takes his chance with a heavy forehand that Rafa can't get back. Despite the hold, the Argentine is starting to look tired, maybe the events of Friday are catching uo with him, whereas Nadal is growing stronger with every game.
Nadal 1-6 4-3 *Del Potro
A loose forehard from Delpo puts Rafa at 40-0, and the Spaniard shows his opponent how it should be done when he opens up the court with a wide serve and sticks the resulting forehand into the space. Nadal is starting to get a foothold in this match... Delpo beware!
Nadal* 1-6 3-3 Del Potro
Delpo produces a magical backhand winner from way out of the court to take a 30-0 lead, and then follows up with a big serve that draws an error from Nadal. He takes his first game point with another winning backhand. After a set and a half of both players struggling to hold serve, all of a sudden they're doing it with ease.
Nadal 1-6 3-2 *Del Potro
Rafa holds to love. At 40-0, Delpo sent up a high lob that must have been close to hitting the temporary roof that covers this makeshift court inside the Olympic Stadium. Nadal took his time, let it bounce, and then spanked it for a winner. The day's first Mexican wave follows...
Nadal* 1-6 2-2 Del Potro
Delpo gets two feet off the ground as he clubs a double handed backhand winner cross court to go 30-15 up. Two forced errors from Rafa and the Argentine enjoys a comfortable hold. There haven't been too many of those for either player yet today.
Nadal 1-6 2-1 *Del Potro
Rafa goes 40-15 ahead courtesy of two cracking backhand passes that fizzed past Delpo at the net. The Argentine fights back to deuce though, once more using that heavy forehand to great effect. Rafa goes break point down when a forehand lands just long, but he saves it with an ace, his first of the match. He digs out an important hold of serve after coming out on top of two long rallies. This is already turning into a titanic battle.
Nadal* 1-6 1-1 Del Potro
Forehand winner from Delpo, then an ace, then an audacious backhand dropshot. Looks like we're heading for another love game. Rafa can't live with him at the moment. Hang on. You don't win the title at Roland Garros six times in seven years unless you can dig deep in times of adversary. Back comes Rafa... five points in a row and all of a sudden we're level again. Gutsy play. Is that a turning point?
Nadal 1-6 0-1 *Del Potro
More of the same from Delpo as he breaks Rafa to love. That's right... to love! Huge forehand after huge forehand. The Spaniard looks all at sea at the moment. He hasn't got an answer. The Argentine fans are starting to believe. If you're not already, you can listen to live commentary of this match with Davis Cup Radio, well worth it I assure you.
FIRST SET ARGENTINA 6-1
Nadal* 1-6 0-0 Del Potro
Much better from Rafa as he races 0-40 ahead, the first "vamos" of the match from the world No. 2. Then back comes Delpo and two enormous forehand winners get him to deuce. He saves a fourth break point with yet another forehand winner, but can't capitalise when he gets two set points of his own. At the third time of asking Delpo finally converts. Unbelievable. Six games in a row against the great Nadal... on clay... in front of his home fans. Brilliant from Delpo!
Nadal 1-5 *Del Potro
Incredible scenes inside the Olympic Stadium as the Argentine fans go crazy. Their man has got Rafa on the run. Massive hitting from Delpo give him a 0-40 lead and, although Rafa fights back to deuce, the big man from Tandil gets a fourth chance and this time he takes it when Rafa sends a forehand sailing long.
Nadal* 1-4 Del Potro
After a double fault and unforced error from the baseline, Delpo gets back to 30-30 with a huge ace out wide, the first of the match. Another mistake gives Rafa a break point, which is saved with an unreturnable. A loose forehand brings up the Spaniard's second chance to break, and this time Delpo gets out of jail when he slaps a forehand against the netcord, the ball rolling agonisingly over and out of Rafa's reach. The Argentine capitalises and finally holds serve after two long rallies. Great comeback from Delpo after that disastrous opening game.
Nadal 1-3 *Del Potro
Big delay in play as a large group of Argentine fans cause a commotion high up in the stand. Rafa looks far from amused. Even less so when he immediately misses his second forehand of the game to go down 0-30. More shouts on Rafa's ball toss. Another stoppage. Is this tie being played in Seville or Buenos Aires? Delpo cracks a massive forehand winner to get himself three break points. The first one is saved when Rafa, rather fortuitously, hits a bounce smash that cleans the line, then he gets one more back when Delpo nets a return. The Argentine finally converts at the third time of asking as a Nadal backhand strays into the trams.
Nadal* 1-2 Del Potro
Delpo is really starting to find his range on the forehand wing. Two big ones get him to 30-15, but Rafa fights back with one of his own, sweetly struck inside out for a winner. Big serve and drive volley from Delpo bring up a game point, and he converts with yet another forehand winner. That shot is such a weapon for him.
Nadal 1-1 *Del Potro
Rafa opens up a 30-0 lead, but a clever backhand slice from Delpo deceives the Spaniard and goes for a winner cross court. Nadal follows up with a serve-volley point which works perfectly, except for the part when he should have pushed the easy volley into the open court. The ball hits the tape and stays on his side. Still, he earns a game point after a long rally, only for a wayward forehand to take the game to deuce. Delpo is more accurate with his forehand and fires a winner into the corner, bringing a clap from his opponent, and he gets back on level terms when Rafa plays a poor dropshot that lands wide.
Nadal* 1-0 Del Potro
Not the start Delpo was after. He comes into the net on the first two points and misses volleys. The Argentine fights back to deuce, courtesy of a pair of backhand errors from Rafa, but then double faults twice to hand the Spaniard an early break. He can ill afford many more game like that.
The Spanish fans come back with cheers of "RRRRafa RRRRafa". He really is a hero in these parts. We're nearly there folks. Delpo is going to serve first, wearing his blue shirt and white headband. Rafa, in red shirt and yellow headband, breaks into his usual jog from the chair and we're all set. Let the fun begin...
National anthems completed and the players walk out to a thunderous reception. Rafa looks seriously focussed, as always, and Delpo looks seriously laid back, as always. The Argentine fans are singing and dancing in the stands, waving scarves and flags around their heads in a football-stylee. If their man is to do the impossible today and beat the unbeatable - aka Nadal - then they could have a part to play. Not long to go now.
No sign of the players just yet, they'll be here shortly. Rafa is obviously clear favourite for this one, no doubt about it, but Delpo shouldn't be written off. I was sat in this same courtside seat on Friday when he gave Ferrer a serious run for his money. He was striking the ball so cleanly and it took the gritty Spaniard every ounce of his energy to finally take him out in five sets. If Delpo can get off to a good start today then who knows...
Welcome back! I may be biased towards Davis Cup, actually I am biased towards Davis Cup, but I don't think tennis can get any bigger than this. In my opinion the best clay court player of all-time, Nadal, taking on one of the most talented players in the men's game today, del Potro, and in an atmosphere that I can honestly say is in a different league to anything I've ever witnessed before in tennis. This is going to be special.
Rafael Nadal (ESP) - 04/12/2011
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) - 04/12/2011
Captain Albert Costa (ESP) - 04/12/2011
Captain Tito Vazquez (ARG) - 04/12/2011