Spain head into Wednesday evening’s showdown with Croatia knowing that a victory of any description will propel them into the quarter-finals.
Rafael Nadal (PA Images)
It was a long opening night for the hosts at the Caja Magica, with Spain completing a 2-1 victory over Russia as the clock approached 2.00am local time. After Roberto Bautista Agut suffered a heartbreaking defeat in a deciding set tiebreaker against Andrey Rublev in the first singles rubber, Rafael Nadal stepped out on court in a must-win duel with Karen Khachanov.
And win he did, with the World No. 1 battling his way to a 6-3 7-6(7) triumph over the powerful Russian, securing the 25th consecutive win of his Davis Cup career as he saved set point in the second set to send the tie into a deciding doubles rubber.
“The format makes things very difficult because every mistake put you in a position that you don’t want to be,” Nadal said. “Losing that first match, we were under pressure with the rest of the groups.
“You make a mistake in one singles match, and in the doubles anything can happen. So things are beautiful that way, too. But at the same time, for the best teams, it makes things so dangerous.”
Veterans Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers then completed the comeback win for Spain as they toppled Khachanov and Rublev by a 6-4 7-6(5) scoreline in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Borna Coric (PA Images)
It was an important victory as Spain now have their destiny in their own hands, meaning if they beat Croatia, they will advance into the quarter-finals.
“We have to be very happy because we were very close to being out of the competition,” said Lopez. “Rafa evened the tie and then we were able to win, but we were very close to being out, to have a very small chance of being in the quarter-finals.”
Spain will certainly be heavy favourites against a depleted Croatian side on Wednesday.
Croatia suffered a 0-3 whitewash in their opening tie against Russia, with former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic missing the competition due to injury.
Borna Gojo was called in as a late replacement, but the World No. 280 was no match for Rublev, losing in straight sets, while Borna Coric couldn’t get Croatia on the board as he fell in three sets to Khachanov.
Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic were supposed to be the strong point of the team, but the doubles specialists also suffered a disappointing loss, going down in straights to Rublev and Khachanov.
With Spain equipped with two top 10 players (Nadal and Bautista Agut), it’s unlikely Croatia will be able to mount much of a challenge and stop the hosts from reaching the last eight.
Spain vs Croatia Davis Cup Finals live streaming, preview and tips – Nadal aims to lead hosts into quarter-finals
Rafael Nadal will be out to lead Spain into the Davis Cup Finals quarter-finals when the hosts take on Croatia…
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