MADRID (Reuters) – Shortly before midnight on Tuesday in Madrid’s La Caja Magica, Rafa Nadal punched the air as chants of “Rafa, Rafa” echoed around the arena and the Davis Cup Finals burst into life.
After generally disappointing attendances so far at the glitzy new version of the 119-year-old competition, a sell-out crowd in the cavernous 12,500-seat stadium roared the world number one to a 6-3 7-6(7) win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
Reaction - Nadal - Victory - Spain - Trophy
While the reaction to Nadal’s victory sounded like Spain had won the old trophy for a sixth time it actually just leveled the Group B tie at 1-1.
The victory would come shortly before 2 a.m. when veteran duo Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers beat Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 6-4 7-6 to clinch a 2-1 win.
Russia - Champions - Croatia - Monday - Anxiety
With Russia having beaten defending champions Croatia 3-0 on Monday there was some anxiety on the Spain bench when Rublev surged back to beat Wimbledon semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6 6-3 7-6(0) and put them ahead.
That left the 33-year-old Nadal with no margin for error against dangerous world number 17 Khachanov. But if ever there is a man for a crisis it is Nadal.
Davis - Cup - Rubbers - Debut - Home
He had won his last 24 Davis Cup singles rubbers since losing on his debut in 2004 and was not about to stop now — not on home soil with his country depending on him.
Khachanov stretched him to breaking point at times, especially in the second set, but the 19-times Grand Slam champion fought off a set point before claiming victory.
Afterwards - Format - Ties - Rubbers - Things
Afterwards he said the new format, with ties consisting of three rubbers rather than the traditional five, made things dangerous for the fancied nations.
“The format makes things very difficult because every mistake puts you in a position that you don’t want to...
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