Rafael Nadalhas helped Spain win big…
The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star, ranked No. 1 in the world, risked injury by playing eight matches — five singles, three doubles — in six days at the Davis Cup Finals, the new World Cup of tennis.
Nadal won all of them, leading Spain to its sixth Davis Cup title after a 2-0 win over first-time finalist Canada on Sunday.
But in Nadal’s view, the only hero for Spain was grieving teammate Roberto Bautista Agut. He sent Spain on its way to victory by winning the first singles match on Sunday, three days after the death of his father.
“I’ve won the eight matches but the person who was vital in this Davis Cup was Roberto,” Nadal said. “For me, what he did was something almost inhuman. I don’t know how to explain it. It will be an example for the rest of my life. He had to leave, then his dad died, then he came back and practiced with us yesterday, and today he was ready again to play at a very high level. It was something incredible.”
Before Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to clinch the title — Spain’s first since also winning at home in 2011 — Bautista Agut had given Spain a 1-0 lead by beating Felix Auger-Aliassime7-6 (3), 6-3.
Bautista Agut pointed his finger to the sky after winning the final point in his match, and was in tears while speaking briefly to the crowd, which chanted his name. And he was the Spanish player lifting the cup in the title celebrations.
Bautista Agut’s father died on Thursday — a day after his son had defeated Nikola Mektic of Croatia — with his health deteriorating quickly after an illness that stemmed from a 2016 accident.
Bautista Agut, No. 9 in the world, played as teammates Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers nursed injuries entering the final.
As for Nadal, he considered himself lucky to be able to play all matches.
“It’s true that I held up, but we know that playing so many matches in this [hard-court] surface is risky for me, something can happen at any time,” Nadal said. “That’s how it’s been in the past, but luckily I held up.”
Spain’s Granollers and Feliciano Lopezhad been scheduled to face Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisilin the now-canceled doubles match, although Nadal was likely to play if the title had been at stake. Nadal played in the decisive doubles on Friday and Saturday.
Voted the tournament’s best player, Nadal sealed the title with his 29th straight Davis Cup singles win, igniting the home crowd’s celebrations.
Tournament organizer and Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, his wife Shakira — who performed in the closing ceremony — and Spanish King Felipe VI were among those celebrating Spain’s triumph.
Spain’s other Davis Cup titles were in 2000, ’04, ’08, ’09 and ’11.
The new Davis Cup Finals is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the Kosmos group co-founded by Pique.