x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Nadal reigns as Spain reach final

Spain booked their spot in the Davis Cup final at the expense of reigning champions the United States yesterday following another Rafael Nadal clay-court masterclass.

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates another magnificent passing shot on his way to victory over America's Andy Roddick.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates another magnificent passing shot on his way to victory over America's Andy Roddick.

Spain booked their spot in the Davis Cup final at the expense of reigning champions the United States yesterday following another Rafael Nadal clay-court masterclass. The world No 1 was in merciless form against Andy Roddick and his 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 victory in Madrid's Las Ventas bullring means the Spanish now hold an unassailable 3-1 lead with just one singles match to go.

The start of play was delayed by almost two hours due to rain and Nadal, who had won 122 of his last 125 matches on clay, looked keen to make up for lost time once his clash with Roddick finally got under way. Roddick started well, winning his first service game to love, but it was largely all downhill for the American after that and he only just held serve in the fifth game - needing to save three break points before taking the win.

Nadal was not so profligate with his next break point in the seventh match though, firing a forehand winner down the touchline to take a 4-3 lead. That proved the crucial breakthrough as, after the following two games went with serve, Nadal was able to serve out for the set. The Spaniard did not have it easy in that game though, slipping 15-40 behind, but he rattled off four successive points before clinching the win with his third ace of the set - already two more than he managed in the whole of his opening day triumph over Sam Querrey.

Nadal was looking in prime form and his stranglehold on the tie became vice-like as he broke Roddick twice in the opening three games of the second set as well as holding his own serve to love to take a 3-0 lead. There was no way back for Roddick after that and he was swept aside by rampant Nadal in the next three games as arguably the sport's greatest-ever clay-courter stormed to a 6-0 set win. Roddick at least made a fight of it in the final game of the second set, fashioning two break points before succumbing to Nadal's class, and he will have been hoping that was a sign of better things to come.

And that might well have been the case had the world No 8, after holding his serve in the opening game of the third set, made the most of having Nadal 0-40 in the second game. But, in similar fashion to the 10th game of the first set, Nadal hit back in style with five consecutive points to level the scores up at 1-1. Roddick, 26, would not get a better chance, and Nadal compounded the his misery by immediately breaking him in the next game.

After that it was a case of when, not if, Nadal would clinch the contest and although he was unable to make the most of five match points in the ninth game, the Mallorcan claimed the victory in the following game on his own serve, sealing the triumph with a brilliant cross-court backhand. Spain will now meet either Argentina or Russia in the final as they seek their third Davis Cup title. In other matches, Andy Murray powered his way to a victory which kept Britain's hopes alive in his grudge match with Austria's Jurgen Melzer.

The British No 1 was in the feistiest of moods as he defeated Melzer 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in a tough rubber on Wimbledon's Court One to square the tie at 2-2. Romania retained their place in the World Group after forging to an unassailable 3-1 lead in the play-off with Inida yesterday. With a 2-1 overnight advantage victory was assured when Romania's Victor Hanescu defeated Prakash Amritraj, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Ivo Karlovic secured Croatia's place in the World Group by defeating Tomasz Bellucci, giving Croatia an unbeatable 3-1 lead over Brazil. Karlovic ran out a 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 winner. Stephane Bohli replaced Roger Federer in the first dead singles rubber in Lausanne, and defeated Steve Darcis 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to put Switzerland 4-0 up over Belgium, before Xavier Malisse then beat Yves Allegro 6-3, 62 to pull one back.

Meanwhile, Serbia ran out 4-1 winners over Slovak Republic. * Agencies