Spain looks set for yet another Davis Cup title

BY foxsports • September 22, 2009

The United States has won a record 32 Davis Cup titles, but by the looks of it, there's a new dynasty in town — Spain, which won titles in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and looks to be it's on its way to a fourth in the 21st century.

Last weekend — fielding a "B" team with "A" team capabilities — the defending champs nailed down a 4-1 win over Israel in the semifinals behind David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Feliciano Lopez. Playing on Murcia on their beloved red clay, captain Albert Costa didn't even need his top two singles players (Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco) as Israel's Andy Ram and Harel Levy have had virtually no success on the surface. Moreover, Costa was able to call upon a former No. 1 and French Open champ in Ferrero, who is having a solid year, and a former top-five player in Ferrer.

Spain has won its last 17 home ties and its last 19 on clay — and guess what? Instead of facing what surely would have been a huge challenge in having to travel to Croatia and face service bombers Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic in the final, they will get to stay at home, as the Czech Republic scored a 4-1 victory over their Eastern European foes behind marathon wins by Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych.

Surely, if top-20 players and indoor-court lovers Stepanek and Berdych were playing at home, they would have a good shot at toppling Spain, but the aging Stepanek no longer likes to dig out balls on dirt, and the vast majority of the foot-speed-challenged Berdych's success has come on fast surfaces.

That means Spain will be a heavy favorite in the final, even if Nadal and Verdasco aren't healthy enough to play.

"They have the best clay-court players in the world — and definitely we are going to be outsiders, but we've been in that situation a couple of times this year and we used it to our advantage, and I believe we are going to do the same thing in December," said Stepanek, who had to face down a world record of 78 aces and four match points to beat Karlovic in a five-hour, 59-minute match.

Costa will have a difficult decision for the final. If Nadal and Verdasco are healthy, he'll have to remove two members off his semifinal-winning team. Tommy Robredo, who played doubles with Lopez against Israel, is almost sure to go, but then Costa will be forced to choose between Ferrero and Ferrer, as Lopez and Verdasco are a tried and true doubles team.

While the 19th-ranked Ferrer has been slightly more consistent this year, No. 21 Ferrero has been better at the majors, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the U.S. Open. Ferrero's career has been largely up and down since he won the 2003 French Open and achieved No. 1, but he's still a better big-match player.

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