How good is Spanish men’s tennis? So good that Rafael Nadal’s absence was barely noticed last weekend as Spain beat the United States 3-1 in the Davis Cup semifinal in Gijon, Spain. The Spaniards advanced to the final Nov. 16-18, when they will play on the road against the Czech Republic, a surprise 3-2 winner over Argentina.
The Argentines were without Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday after he sustained a left wrist injury.
The United States has won the Davis Cup a record 32 times, but Spain has been the runaway leader the past 12 years, winning the championship five times — in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011. Consider that before 2000, Spain had reached only one Davis Cup final, in 1965. When Nadal announced he would miss the semifinal with tendinitis in his knees, it seemed to be a break for the United States. Problem is, other Spaniards are extremely talented and as passionate about Davis Cup as Nadal. Fifth-ranked David Ferrer, a U.S. Open semifinalist, beat John Isner 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday to give the five-time champs an insurmountable 3-1 lead. It was Ferrer’s 16th consecutive Davis Cup win on clay.
“Spain is the high water mark in the Davis Cup in the last 15 years,” U.S. captain Jim Courier said. “We always knew it was going to be close. 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 last time the United States won was in 2007 with Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mike and Bob Bryan. They beat Russia 4-1 in Portland, Ore.
If Spain wins, it will be its fourth title in the past five years. Its last clay loss in Davis Cup was in 1999.
“This is the competition in which I have felt the most emotions in. I’m a team player,” said Ferrer, who has played on each of Spain’s past three title teams. “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."
The Czech team features Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Chances are, they will choose a fast surface because Spanish players are more comfortable on the slow clay.
As for the United States, Isner left Spain frustrated. He lost to Nicolas Almagro in five sets Friday — his fifth big five-set loss of the year, and went down in four sets to Ferrer.
“I guess the good news is I don’t have any more five-set matches this year,” Isner said. “I’ll start again in Melbourne [Australia] next year and hope for better.”
A crowd of about 15,000 lined the streets of Dunblane, Scotland, on Sunday to welcome home Andy Murray after his Olympic and U.S. Open victories. He is the first British man to win a Grand Slam in 76 years, so fans ignored the dreary weather and showed up for the parade. Murray and his family rode through town on an open-top bus, and he then walked the streets signing autographs and posing for photos.
“So many people, so much support, it’s been a bit overwhelming,” Murray said. “It will take a few days to sink in.”
Murray beat Roger Federer for gold and outlasted Novak Djokovic in five sets in the U.S. Open final.
On the rise
Anna Tatishvili, who moved to Boca Raton from the country of Georgia at age 7, had a breakthrough U.S. Open this year, reaching the fourth round before losing to No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2. Tatishvili, 22, began training at the Chris Evert Academy eight years ago. She cracked the top 100 in 2011 and reached a career-high No. 52 after the U.S. Open. Last week, she reached the quarterfinals of the Quebec City Open but retired in her match against Kristen Flipkens.
Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Delray Beach International Tennis Championships and the 2013 Sony Open on Key Biscayne. The Delray tournament is Feb. 22-March 3 and features Isner, Mardy Fish, and the Bryan brothers. Call 561-330-6000 for information or go to www.yellowtennisball.com. The Sony, from March 18-31, features the top 96 men and top 96 women in the world. Serena Williams For information, call 1-800-725-5472 or go to www.sonyopentennis.com.