Rafael Nadal beat in form Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6(7) to clinch the Davis Cup tie 2-0 for Spain on Sunday at Madrid in front of a sell-out crowd at the Caja Magica venue after Roberto Bautista Agut gave Spain the 1-0 lead with a straight-set victory over 19-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6(3), 6-3. This was Spain’s sixth Davis Cup triumph and the first in the new condensed format of Best of 3 sets and 3 matches. Nadal has been part of five Davis Cup-winning teams.
Both Nadal and Shapovalov started the match with high intensity. It was the Spaniard who had numerous chances to break at the start of the match but Shapovalov played well in the breakpoints to stay level. Nadal had a breakpoint for the third straight service game and this time he was able to put enough pressure to draw the error and take the lead for 4-2. The World No.1 maintained the lead and soon wrapped up the first set 6-3 with some fine serving that ensures that the Canadian has no chances on his service games.
In the second set, Nadal’s level dropped as he appeared to be feeling fatigued playing his 8th match in six days just after taking part in the ATP Finals in London. This allowed Shapovalov to get to deuce but again Nadal’s serve came to his rescue. In his next service game, Nadal had to fend off a breakpoint with a service winner and then ripped two forehand winners to hold for 3-3. The quality of play rose even higher and both players treated the crowd to some spectacular rallies. It went to a tie-breaker where Shapovalov took an early 2-0 lead but Nadal fought back to 3-3. Nadal then reached two match points at 6-4 with a big serve but Shapovalov came up with some stunning forehands to save both to level at 6-6. The Canadian then had a set point of his own at 7-6 which Nadal saved with a forehand winner. He brought up his third match point and this time Shapovalov made an error to lose the match.
After the match, Nadal said it was an unforgettable win and a team effort with all five players contributing. “An amazing week, a lot of things we went through – the father of Roberto passed away… a lot of things happened. I could not be happier. It has been an unforgettable moment in this amazing stadium; we can’t thank the crowd enough. Our team spirit prevails.” He added that he was happy his body held up after playing so many matches on hard courts in back to back events. “It’s true that I held up, but we know that playing so many matches in this (hard court) surface is risky for me, something can happen at any time. That’s how it’s been in the past, but luckily I held up.” Nadal was also happy to win the tournament’s best player. The left-hander won all eight matches he played having dropped only one set and never lost serve as well.
The fact that Bautista Agut turned up to play singles in the final of the Davis Cup was itself a major achievement for the Spaniard considering that his father had passed away just three days earlier. The Spaniard made a strong start on serve not dropping a point in three games. Auger Aliassime gradually got better on the returns but the set eventually went to a tie break. The Spaniard raised his level with some fine returns to win the tie break 7-3. The Spaniard quickly went to a 3-0 lead and it seemed all over for the young Canadian but he got the break back for 2-3. However, the teenager played a bad game to drop serve again. This time Bautista Agut made no mistake holding on for a straight-set win 7-6(3), 6-3.
Later Bautista Agut was emotional after his win, “It was very special, very special feeling on the court today. I could just go out on the court and give my best. I’m very happy that I could win the first point for Spain.” Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez were the nominated doubles team to play Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil but that was canceled after the 2-0 triumph for Spain.
There were a lot of stars watching Spain triumph. Barcelona football star Gerard Pique who owns the tournament, his wife Shakira who also performed in the closing ceremony. There were loud cheers as Spanish King Felipe VI joined the presentation party at the closing ceremony.