Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco gave Spain a 2-0 lead over Ukraine in their Davis Cup World Group playoff.
Nadal overwhelmed Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-0, 6-0, 6-4 to secure the second point on the outdoor red clay at the Caja Magica after Verdasco rallied to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
”We have the series in hand, but it’s not over,” Nadal said. ”We accomplished our goal for today and are happy with the wins. Let’s see if tomorrow we can get the decisive point.”
In doubles on Saturday, Spain’s Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez will play Ukraine’s Vladyslav Manafov and Denys Molchanov. Reverse singles are Sunday.
The second-ranked Nadal showed no signs of weariness after his 13th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open on Monday.
Nadal said he felt fine returning to his preferred clay after the hard courts in New York.
”I only had a short time to get used to clay gain, a surface I love,” he said. ”Changing surfaces quickly is not the best thing for your legs.”
Nadal needed 30 minutes to ease to a one-set lead. He lowered that mark by four minutes to go ahead 2-0.
Things were so dire for the 92nd-ranked Stakhovsky that when he finally won his first game, the 13th of the match, he pumped his arms in the air and was applauded by the smattering of Ukrainians and the rest of the Spanish crowd.
Nadal last played for Spain in December 2011, when he won the decisive point of the final against Argentina to earn Spain its fifth title. Nadal’s absence has been due in part to a knee injury that sidelined him for seven months last season.
Verdasco shook off a poor start against Dolgopolov and overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third set to take the first point.
”There was a moment when I could only dig in and hold on until he stopped hitting so hard and long,” said Verdasco. ”But I began to get my confidence back and he started making errors. Little by little, I was able to turn the match around.”