David Ferrer proved that Spain’s Davis Cup dominance wasn’t just down to Rafael Nadal when he clinched its place in the final with victory over the United States.
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Ferrer beat John Isner 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Sunday to give the five-time champions an insurmountable 3-1 lead and a shot at a fourth title in five seasons. Spain will face the Czech Republic in the final, after the Czechs beat Argentina away.
Helped by Isner’s wayward shot-making, Ferrer rallied from a set down to stay unbeaten on clay in the competition with his 16th straight win.
Ferrer and Nadal had both said they would scale back Davis Cup availability after helping win last year’s final against Argentina. While Nadal has since been limited by injury, Ferrer decided to return.
”This is the competition in which I have felt the most emotions in. I’m a team player,” said Ferrer, who has played a part in each of Spain’s last three titles. ”I don’t know how much longer my career will last so I want to do my best possible in the Davis Cup. (Spain captain) Alex Corretja motivated me to play this season.”
Corretja marked his first season in charge in place of Albert Costa by extending Spain’s dominance with a sixth title since 2000 from its ninth appearance.
”It’s been a wonderful year and now we want to go for more, of course,” Corretja said. ”(Ferrer’s) a guy who never gives up, he’s a gladiator and he knows the way he needs to play on clay, the way he needs to move and hit the ball.”
Spain stretched its record home winning streak to 24 straight ties, and it hasn’t lost on clay for 26 series. Its last clay loss was in 1999.
And, just like in 2008, it did it without Nadal.
”Spain is the high water mark in the Davis Cup in the last 15 years, we always knew it was going to be close,” U.S. captain Jim Courier said. ”They have great individual players, great depth and great passion for Davis Cup. It’s not rocket science, you have great ingredients and you have to blend them together and they do a great job.”
The fifth-ranked Spaniard converted six break points and his American opponent was left slamming his racket in frustration towards the end as 70 unforced errors undid a positive start.
Isner hit more than twice as many unforced errors as Ferrer at the nearly full 15,000-seat venue on the Asturian coast to look nothing like the player who beat Roger Federer in Switzerland in the competition this year.
”The Spanish team was just too good,” Isner said. ”They won the important points and it’s a bit discouraging for me because I wanted to contribute like I did in the first two ties, and that’s a credit to (Nicolas) Almagro and Ferrer, who got two of their points from me.”
The American started well, ripping a number of his 28 forehand winners past a tentative Ferrer who stuck to his baseline, and a pair of his 16 aces helped secure the lead when Ferrer’s forehand sailed long in the first-set tiebreak.
Isner’s momentum came undone quickly, however, as his forehand strayed to help his opponent – who saved four of the six break points he faced – draw even and find his rhythm.
Isner was coming apart as his serve lost pace with the 10th-ranked American kicking his racket around in frustration as Ferrer took full command of the match after taking a 2-sets-to-1 lead.
When Ferrer hit a passing winner in the fifth set, Isner’s expression was of resignation as he netted an easy forehand to be broken again. His backhand flew wide to clinch Spain’s 26th straight victory on clay.
”I was gonna fight, but in the fourth set he got on a bit of a roll,” Isner said. ”I don’t think I got any free points on my serve, he returned my serve great in that fourth set and he was playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Czech Republic will host Spain in the Nov. 16-18 final, which will be played after the ATP Finals in London. Spain swept the Czechs 5-0 in Barcelona in the 2009 final.