Tennis

Despite loss, Spain has doubles pair for future

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GIJON, Spain (AP)

While a loss may not be the best barometer of success, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez have seemingly filled Spain's recent Davis Cup doubles void.

The Spanish duo lost to United States brothers Mike and Bob Bryan on Saturday in their semifinal, but pushed the most successful doubles pair of all time to their longest Davis Cup match.

Defending champion Spain leads the semifinal 2-1 going into Sunday's reverse singles, which are the points regularly won by Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer and which have helped Spain dominate the competition since 2008.

Doubles have been a question mark for Spain since Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco clinched its victory over the Czech Republic in the 2009 final.

''The most important thing is they keep playing together. If they do, it's that much better for us,'' Spain captain Alex Corretja said on Saturday.

The Bryans' 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory left a bittersweet taste for Spain after Granollers was hampered by a left calf injury picked up in the second set. Granollers hit most of Spain's 74 unforced errors as the Americans picked him out for his impaired mobility and pain.

''I definitely would have retired,'' Corretja said. ''But in the Davis Cup you play until the end.''

The Bryans improved to 4-0 against Spain but Mike Bryan felt it was the best Spanish team they had faced.

''It was a battle. Doubles is about experience and those guys have played 50 matches together this year. That's important,'' said Bob Bryan, who called the 3-hour, 38-minute match perhaps the brothers' longest. ''A team that comes together for one Davis Cup tie here and there is not as effective as a team that has played over a full year.''

Verdasco and Lopez called it quits after Spain beat Argentina in last year's final. The Spanish duo - who have been mainstays as Spain has won three titles since 2008 - were spanked in that final and in their semifinal loss to France, winning just 12 of a possible 36 games over the two contests.

While Nadal, Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro are a combined 39-1 in singles clay-court play, Spain's doubles combinations are 3-6 since the 2009 final.

''Feliciano-Verdasco were an incredible pair. We're playing very well together, we understand each other very well on the court,'' said Lopez, who carried the team early when Granollers was struggling with the injury, which could actually help the pair understand each better.

Lopez knew exactly how Granollers was feeling after he forced the pair to retire from the U.S. Open semifinals with the same left calf injury he incurred on Saturday.

''Let's hope this helps us grow,'' Lopez said. ''They are difficult moments that an athlete sometimes has to go through. Let's just hope it doesn't happen again.''

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Follow Paul Logothetis on http://twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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