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Talk About Being Taken To The Woodshed! USA Takes A 1-4 Beat Down From Spain At Davis Cup

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Black Tennis Pro's Davis Cup SemifinalWorld No. 1 Rafael Nadal turned in a virtuoso performance to defeat American Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-4, to secure Spain’s place in the 2008 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final.

It wasn’t that Roddick, ranked No. 8 in the world, played badly; it was just that, on this occasion, he was outclassed by Nadal, who played almost faultless tennis, hitting 60 winners to Roddick’s 39 and committing ten fewer unforced errors in the 2 hour, 12 minute encounter.

“Today I play an almost perfect match and it is very, very exciting,” said Nadal after the win. “Today I played very well. I shocked myself with some of the winners I played, was near perfect tennis.”

Nadal Dominates From Start

The 21,000 strong crowd at the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas in Madrid waited out a 1 hour, 40 minute rain delay before Nadal and Roddick took the court. From almost the first point of the match, the world No. 1 dominated the American, who failed to convert any of the seven break point opportunities he had in the match.

Roddick seemed almost philosophical in defeat, laughing ruefully on the bench at the changeovers with USA Captain Patrick McEnroe:

“He’s possibly the best clay-courter ever so it’s tough, especially when he hits like he did today. He was going for his shots and not leaving much short.”

Roddick Gets The Fans On His Side

Having struggled with the mostly Spanish fans on Friday, Roddick got them on side when he raised his hands as if to ask them to cheer for a missed first serve during the third set. The fans responded by good-naturedly chanting “Roddick, Roddick” and the American player smiled up at the stands.

“Yeah, they’re only going to do that if your getting your butt kicked,” said a good-natured Roddick afterwards.

Nadal showed real emotion in victory but showed his respect for his opponents and his inate good manners by going first to the American bench, shaking every hand before he ran to his own team to celebrate. Carried on the shoulders of Feliciano Lopez, he was saluted by teammates and fans alike in this, his first event in Spain as the new world No. 1. No matador at the Las Ventas, the most important bullring in all of Spain, could have been greeted with more passion or affection than Nadal on this day.

Nadal had a 3-2 advantage in the career head-to-head with the American No. 1 but they had only met once before on clay in the 2004 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final won by the Spaniard in four sets. The pair played twice before in 2008, with a win for Roddick in Dubai and another for Nadal at Queen’s.

Serving Problems In First Set

From start to finish, the atmosphere at Las Ventas was electric and full of anticipation of a Spanish victory. Both players held serve easily to start the match despite a poor first service percentage. In the fifth game of the first set, Roddick’s serving woes continued but he staved off three break points against a determined Nadal but on his next service game, Nadal broke with a forehand passing shot down the line and the Spanish flags started flying. Nadal consolidated his break for 5-3 then, with US captain McEnroe exhorting him from the sidelines, Roddick held serve forcing Nadal, who took a spill running for a drop shot, to serve for the set.

After winning the first point, Nadal made three unforced errors for 15-40 giving the American his first break points of the match. A forehand error from Roddick and two forehand winners gave Nadal a first set point and with an emphatic ace, the Spaniard won the first set 64.

Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set with a forehand down the line winner and, with sublime ease, went on to win the second set 6-0. As in the opening set, the only break points he faced came when he served for the set and, also like the first, he won the set with an ace. This marked the first time that Roddick, who was serving well in the second set, had lost a set to love in Davis Cup and only the fifth time that this had happened in his career.

In the third, Roddick played steadier tennis but Nadal was just too good for him on the day. Although the American saved five match points on his serve for 5-4, the man from Mallorca made no mistake on the first opportunity on his own serve, converting his sixth match point opportunity into a win.

Feliciano Lopez defeated Sam Querrey 7-6, 7-6, in the dead rubber to make the final score 4-1, after which all the Spanish players and captain Emilio Sanchez spoke to the crowd and thanked them for their support.

Spain will travel to Argentina or Russia for November’s final. Argentina led that tie 2-1 overnight.

Photo Paul Zimmer

Posted by Shelia

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