Spanish fighter Nadal delivers

Rafael Nadal's teammates piling on him to celebrate Spain's winning point in the Davis Cup, after he beat Canada's Denis Shapovalov in Madrid on Sunday. It is the country's sixth title. PHOTO: REUTERS
Rafael Nadal's teammates piling on him to celebrate Spain's winning point in the Davis Cup, after he beat Canada's Denis Shapovalov in Madrid on Sunday. It is the country's sixth title. PHOTO: REUTERS

Hosts clinch new-look Davis Cup as Matador gives team goosebumps by going unbeaten

MADRID • With nothing left to prove at this stage, Rafael Nadal went out and proved something more on Sunday.

That at the end of another gruelling season, he could shrug off nagging injuries and late-night finishes, leading Spain to their sixth Davis Cup title with a 2-0 win over first-time finalists Canada.

He gave all he had on the Caja Magica centre court in Madrid, even if it meant putting himself at risk of injury, as he won all eight of his matches in six days.

After clinching the 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Denis Shapovalov in the championship match, the world No. 1 had tears in his eyes as teammate Roberto Bautista Agut thanked him for his efforts during the tournament.

"You gave us goosebumps all week, especially today," the world No. 9 said. "Thank you. I'm sure that next year you will do it again."

Nadal, 33, also revealed that he considered himself lucky to be able to play all the matches. The 19-time Grand Slam winner said: "It's true I held up, but we know playing so many matches in this (hard-court) surface is risky for me, something can happen at any time. That's how it's been in the past."

Voted the event's best player, it was his 29th straight Davis Cup singles victory, capping a year that has included triumphs at Roland Garros, Flushing Meadows, Rome and Montreal as well as the title of being the oldest year-end No. 1 player.

Event organiser and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, his pop star wife Shakira, who performed in the closing ceremony, and Spanish King Felipe VI were among those in the crowd celebrating their sixth Davis Cup win, even though it was the most unusual on many levels.

Their four previous Davis Cup victories at home in 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2011 had all come on clay, long favoured by the country's players.

However, Spain no longer had the choice of ground in this new format in which ties have been reduced from five best-of-five-set matches spread over three days to three best-of-three-set matches played over a single day.

So an indoor hard court was chosen though it has rarely been Nadal's happiest hunting ground.

But the extra days of rest he was able to take after his group-stage exit from the ATP Finals in London were perhaps critical to his bravura performance in Madrid.

On his teammate, 62nd-ranked Feliciano Lopez said: "It's always difficult to speak about Rafa. To be honest, there are things that you cannot describe with words, they're things only people like Rafa are able to do."

The event will return to Madrid with 18 teams again, next year, and it is hard to imagine that Nadal will have stopped running, hustling and winning by then.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2019, with the headline 'Spanish fighter Nadal delivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe