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Nadal clinches Davis Cup for Spain
The Davis Cup final, played amid a frenzy of patriot fervor in Seville, was glorious for Spain, wonderful for Rafael Nadal and terrific for tennis.
But how good, in the long term, will it be for the Davis Cup itself if top players find the schedule too tough and, as he intimated, Nadal chooses not to play next year?
The International Tennis Federation is caught in an unhappy Catch-22 situation. This year, players such as Roger Federer were inclined to compete because, if they had not, the rules state they would not have been eligible to play the 2012 Olympics in London.
But next year, the crowded calendar becomes even more hopelessly overloaded because of — guess what? The Olympics.
So several top stars are likely to opt out — hardly ideal for a competition that already struggles for worldwide media recognition.
But that’s for the future. Right now, it is time to cry for Argentina and celebrate the superhuman athlete that is Rafa Nadal.
Exhausted both physically and mentally by a long and largely disappointing year, the great left-hander recovered from being outplayed by Juan Martin del Potro in the first reverse singles on Sunday to give Spain a 3-1 winning lead with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 victory over the gallant Argentine.
Del Potro, who had lost a marathon battle Friday against David Ferrer — the other Spanish hero — was playing with both thighs strapped, and his condition had led some to believe that captain Tito Vasquez should have opted for David Nalbandian, who had been so dominant in the doubles the previous day, when he and Eduardo Schwank kept Argentina in the tie.
But the giant 6-foot-6 former US Open champion did his best to justify his captain’s faith by battling through an amazing first set that, despite the lopsided score, took 61 minutes to complete.
And even though Nadal, rising to the occasion as ever, took control of the next two sets, he still could not prevent del Potro gaining a 5-3 lead in the fourth. But a double fault and more Nadal resistance ruined his chance of serving out to take the riveting duel into a fifth.
Breaking back, Nadal finished the argument in the most emphatic manner possible, taking the breaker 7-0.
Everyone was in tears after that, and Nadal — showing the man he is — went around to embrace every member of the Argentine team who had fought with such spirit.
This was Spain’s fifth Davis Cup triumph and its third in four years. For Argentina, an unhappy record. No other nation has reached four finals and still not won the Cup.
This is no time for sour grapes, but the Argentines have serious cause for complaint after WADA drug-testers knocked on their squad members’ hotel room doors at 6 a.m. the day before the tie competition was to begin.
Unfair, insensitive and crass would be three fitting words as one tries to come to grips with that decision.
Firstly, WADA, as an organization dealing with athletes, must know about the importance of sleeping patterns and how disruptive it can be if they are broken. Officials also must know that 6 a.m. is at least two hours before most tennis players wake up.
Secondly — and this is barely believable — only the Argentine team was drug-tested that morning while Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer were tested Saturday during the doubles match much later in the day. Have WADA officials heard of something called a level playing field? And, if they have, do they care?
The fact that some Argentine players have been suspended for drug infringements in the past should have nothing to do with it. In a team situation, you either test both nations or nobody, and there is absolutely no need to do it at dawn.
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