Nadal and Spain continue clay domination at Davis Cup

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Nadal and Spain continue clay domination at Davis Cup

SEVILLE, Spain - Six months after winning his last tournament, Rafael Nadal overcame a dwindling motivation because of injuries and fatigue to lead Spain to its fifth Davis Cup title and third in four years.

The second-ranked Nadal recovered from a terrible start on his favored surface of clay before holding on to beat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (0) to give the hosts a 3-1 series win on Sunday.

Nadal’s first title since winning his sixth French Open in June followed a run of below-par performances in which he acknowledged feeling less passionate about the sport as another long season took its toll.

Though there were flashes of that poor end-of-season run, Nadal eventually settled into his usual dominant groove on clay, helped by Del Potro’s 64 unforced errors. It was the Spaniard’s 20th straight victory since debuting in the competition in 2004 with a loss.

“I’ve never had the chance to secure the winning point of a Davis Cup. In the end it came down to me,’’ said Nadal, who extended his clay record to 16-0 and ensured Argentina remained the only nation to play in four finals without a victory.

Spain players Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco and captain Albert Costa were among those who enveloped Nadal after he had dropped to the ground in celebration, while Del Potro exited the arena in tears.

It was the third Davis Cup trophy for Nadal, who secured a point in the win over the United States as a teenager at the same Olympic Stadium in the 2004 final.

“It’s a special feeling since you’re playing at home in the last event of the year and it’s to win the Davis Cup and all of the emotion and happiness that comes with being on the court,’’ said Nadal, “It’s going to be impossible to repeat.’’

Not since the United States teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s has a country dominated the competition to such an extent.

“On home clay, they are probably one of the best teams in history,’’ Argentina captain Tito Vazquez said after Spain stretched its record home winning streak to 21 series.

While Nadal has come to rule on clay since 2005 - losing only seven matches on the surface since then - he endured his most lopsided set defeat in the competition as Del Potro hit forehand winners at will to break serve four straight times.

Del Potro’s pinpoint accuracy compounded Nadal’s sluggish start to give the visitors hope of becoming the first team since Australia 72 years ago to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the Davis Cup final.

But Del Potro then started misfiring and Nadal found his rhythm to break back. The Spaniard steadied thanks to his strong backhand and eventually smashed a forehand winner to secure the last set and send nearly all 23,000 fans into wild celebrations.

“I’ve never played in front of such a crowd before,’’ Nadal said.

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