Our reporter in Cordoba, Clive White, reflects on Spain's dominance in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinal win over France, and looks ahead to the Final in December when Argentina will be the visitors.
When you have a sports person or sports team as good as Spain’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas team you want to see them thoroughly tested in order to establish their standing not only in today’s game but in history as a whole. Who knows when we will see their like again. France, who are one of the strongest teams in the world, did not come remotely close to doing so in the Cordoba semifinal.
It obviously then doesn’t bode well for Argentina uncovering cracks in their defences, when France could find none, in the final on December 2-4. On the face of it, Tito Vazquez’s team don’t have a chance and yet time and again these past two years they have confounded the critics and of course did so again monumentally in Belgrade in the other semifinal. Never mind that the world No1 Novak Djokovic made only a partial contribution to Serbia’s effort to defend their title.
Most people would say that if Argentina couldn’t beat them at home, at Mar del Plata, in the 2008 final what chance does it have in Spain. But for a variety of reasons Argentina did not give of their best then. David Nalbandian’s desire to win the Davis Cup burns as fiercely as ever and, as everyone knows, on his day is a match for any player in the world and Juan Martin Del Potro was not then the player that he later became and is now hinting of becoming again after a long injury. They also just need to remind themselves – as no doubt Guy Forget did - that Spain lost 5-0 to France last year.
The French captain, however, had difficulty seeing any hope for the Argentines and made it quite clear what his own team was up against as early as the first day’s play in Cordoba, when he said: “Spain is the best team in the world – by far.” And France’s eventual 4-1 defeat seemed to confirm that.
When France lost to Serbia in last year’s final, Forget consoled himself with the thought that things might have been different had his then No1 player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga been available to play. As luck would have it, this time he was again without his No1 player in the rankings, Gael Monfils. However, this time he made the point that France was just as strong without him.
On the face of it, it sounded absurd and one could put it down to something being lost in translation if it wasn’t for the fact that Forget speaks very good English. But in a way he was right. The presence of Monfils in the French team would have made little or no difference to the outcome of this tie. As Forget said: “Rafa [Nadal] and David [Ferrer] are probably the best two clay court players in the world - beside Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic] - so they can win four points just the two of them.
“It’s going to be very, very hard for Argentina. Spain’s doubles team is pretty good also, although they didn’t play well this weekend, so Spain will be the favourites, particularly since they are in front of their own crowd.”
At last year’s final, Forget questioned whether Serbia could have won the title without its No1 player, as they had tried to win it without theirs. Spain has already proved, coincidentally in that 2008 final against Argentina, that it is one nation who can win tennis's greatest team prize without its best player, but Albert Costa will hope that that theory is not put to the test again.
Nadal, who won both his singles rubbers in straight sets, played like the champion he is in Cordoba whatever question mark there may have been over his status a week earlier in New York. And it’s worth nothing that whereas his nemesis Djokovic ended up flat on his back after a delayed introduction to the tie in Belgrade, Nadal overcame the aches to both limbs and heart to march on imperiously.