An incredible final match in Madrid under the lights saw world number one Rafael Nadal triumph against Denis Shapovalov as the Spaniard won Spain’s second singles fixture to seal a remarkable Davis Cup victory on home soil.
Earlier in the weekend, Canada had eliminated Russia, while Spain had edged past Britain, Kyle Edmund winning his singles match against Feliciano López, but Nadal beat Dan Eveans then came straight back onto court as he and Lopez triumphed against Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (10-8).
With Roberto Bautista Agut claiming an earlier victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime in a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 win on the final day, the stage was set for world number one Rafael Nadal to close out the win.
Recently married, surviving a challenge from Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals to retain his numero uno status, Nadal was never going to be denied against the talented Canadian Shapovalov. And, despite the latter providing many dramatic moments along the way with some stunning returns and amazing winners, Shapovalov couldn’t quite get over the line in both sets.
The first set saw Nadal break the Canadian and close it out 6-3. Heading into the second set, it didn’t look like it would be nearly so easy. Time and again, Nadal forced Shapovalov into a corner. Every time he had his back to the wall, however, the Canadian came out fighting, slamming winner after winner down the lines.
The action seemed destined to reach a tie-break and sit proved. A mini-break went the way of the Canadian, but Nadal went to the first change-over level. Nadal had two World Championship Points at 6-4 up, but couldn’t beat Shapovalov, two ridiculous points from Nadal’s challenger seeing the second change-over just as level at six points all.
Just three points later, however, Nadal had the chance to win it again, albeit on his rival’s serve. A stinging reply, a forehand into the net from the Canadian and it was all over, Nadal falling onto his back in relief and perhaps disbelief at his 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) victory.
With that point, Nadal had sealed Spain’s first Davis Cup victory since 2011, and their sixth since the tournament series began. Of course, this season has been very different, with the finals taking place across a single week courtesy of the revamp dreamed up by Spain and Barcelona legend Gerard Pique.
The central defender who once went to war over tomato ketchup being banned at the Old Trafford canteen when he played for Manchester United has his principles and it’s clear he understands sporting drama.
For us, the format worked and would work again. We welcome our new David Cup overlords.
Clearly, we weren’t alone in that, with a partisan home crowd at the Caja Magica in Madrid going crazy between points. At the conclusion of the final point and the event itself, the 12,500 fans rose to a man, and a nation that had done them proud.