It came down to the top ranked player in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie between Spain and the United States to claim victory for his country.
That would be No. 6 David Ferrer, who did the deed admirably on Sunday for his team, securing an insurmountable 3-1 lead over USA at Austin, Texas.
Ferrer captured a 75 76(3) 57 76(5) win over world No. 8 Mardy Fish in an enticing 4 hour 11 minute match to the disappointment of Austin fans, who hoped to see their hometown guy, No. 10 Andy Roddick, be part of a winning quarterfinal effort.
“The match was very tough,” Ferrer said. “I was very strong mentally. It’s a moment that is very, very special.”
There’s no denying that it’s always nicer to win a Davis Cup tie at home, but the Spanish contingent celebrated their victory in style. Spanish captain, Albert Costa, immediately embraced Ferrer in a bear hug before all the teammates started hugging.
That was not the end of the celebration as the team formed a circle and danced on the court, jumping up and down, having great fun in victory. To the credit of the amazing fans in Austin – some of who were even supporting the Spanish – they respectfully applauded and acknowledged the Spanish win.
Spain has won four Davis Cup titles since 2000 (also 2004, 2008 and 2009), and also reached the finals in 2003.
“I think momentum is that we have a generation of players that is unbelievable and it’s going to be very difficult to repeat,” Costa said. “We have to try to take advantage of this and win as much as we can.”
So it will be Spain who moves on to play France with the home court advantage in September’s semifinals. Spain leads France 5-2 in Davis Cup meetings. France, however, put forth an impressive 5-0 win over Spain at home in last year’s quarterfinals.
“Right now, I cannot think about France that’s all I can tell you,” Costa said. “We know that France is a great nation, great players… Let me enjoy this moment and next week we’ll start to think about France.”
Davis Cup defending champions, Serbia, will host Argentina in the other semifinal this coming September.
Spain and the United States are now 5-5 in Davis Cup meetings, but this marked the first time that Spain’s been able to win against an American squad on American soil.
This tie was no easy encounter for the Spanish to bring home. The Americans boasted two top 10 players in Fish and Roddick, not to mention the top-ranked doubles duo of Bob and Mike Bryan.
The fast hard court was supposed to favour the home team, but the Spanish seemed comfortable performing on the surface. The Americans did not go down without a fight, but the Spanish always seemed to have the slight edge during the weekend.
“We ask one thing of our guys and that is to leave it on the court and we succeeded from that standpoint,” said US captain Jim Courier, after the defeat.
“We had a lot of chances, a lot of looks, and we were ahead in a lot of sets. But that’s never a guarantee against players that are so strong, and players who are professionals, and this weekend is a prime example of that. You have to close the door on these guys…Spain is probably the deepest nation out there today in men’s tennis.”
On Friday, Feliciano Lopez survived a five-setter against Fish 64 36 63 67(2) 86 to put Spain ahead 1-0. Then the dogged Ferrer upended Andy Roddick 76(9) 75 63 to give Spain a 2-0 lead after the first day of action.
History did not favour the United States to rebound from the 0-2 deficit after Friday’s singles matches. The Americans have achieved that feat once in 38 opportunities to do so. And that happened back in 1934, which was 77 years ago if you don’t feel like doing the maths.
On Saturday, the Bob and Mike Bryan kept the Americans alive with a 67(3) 64 64 64 win over Marcel Granollers and Fernando Verdasco.
But the reprieve for the United States was brief. Ferrer showed why he’s been a top 10 player so consistently for the past six years as he out-muscled Fish.
“It was probably pretty high quality match for the most part,” said Fish, who was visibly upset by the loss. “The crowd was incredible. I had so much fun all weekend playing. I badly wanted to get to the point where we could get Andy out there to play in front of them, but it just didn’t work out.”
The first set switched momentum until Ferrer, at 6-5, finally secured the set by breaking serve in the final game.
In the second set, Fish saved five set points on his serve in the 10th game to even the score to 5-all. In the tiebreak, they exchanged early minibreaks before Fish hit a forehand long to gall behind 2-4 and allow Ferrer to carry that minibreak to close out the second set.
Fish finally reeled in the third set when Ferrer was serving at 5-6 in the set. The set went Fish’s way on the second set point when Ferrer netted a forehand.
In the fourth set, Ferrer served for the match at 5-4 after breaking Fish’s serve in the ninth game. But he never had a match point, double faulting at 15-40 to bring the score back even to 5-5.
In the tiebreak, Ferrer eventually took the match on his one match point. Fish was serving at 5-6 and hit a forehand crosscourt shot way out.
Davis Cup rules allow for the fifth rubber, when meaningless, to be abandoned unless the two teams decide otherwise. But after the thrilling four-setter put forth by Ferrer and Fish there was not much more that playing a fifth match could offer fans.