By Martyn Herman
MADRID (Reuters) – It has been a long and gruelling week at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals but Rafael Nadal once again proved that when it comes to staying power and resilience he is peerless as he dragged Spain past Britain into the final on Saturday.
With a gripping tie poised at 1-1 after Nadal beat Dan Evans to cancel out Kyle Edmund’s win over Feliciano Lopez, Nadal teamed up with Lopez and played like a man possessed as the Spanish edged two nerve-shredding tiebreaks.
The 33-year-old Nadal, who has now won 28 Davis Cup singles rubbers in a row, looked weary after playing singles and doubles well past midnight for the third night in succession.
But when the 38-year-old Lopez wavered, Nadal somehow found the energy to repel Britons Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski as the Spaniards saved four set points in the second set.
Spain captain Sergi Brugera was unable to call upon second-ranked singles player Robert Bautista Agut, whose father died this week, Pablo Carreno Busta, who injured himself against Argentina on Friday, or Marcel Granollers, with whom Nadal won a deciding doubles against Argentina.
But when you have 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal it is like having two men.
Nadal will have to do it all again on Sunday if Spain are to win their sixth Davis Cup title and first since 2011.
“There are a lot of emotions out there,” he said. “We went through a lot of things this week, honestly, every day.
“I went to my room at 4:24 in the morning today. Two days ago the father of Roberto passed away. Today Pablo and Marcel were not well. A lot of things.
“So we needed to find a way. We knew it was going to be a very tough battle out there, not a lot of chances.
“We can’t be happier than to be where we are today.”
Nadal warned that his reserves of energy are not limitless though after his marathon stint this week.
“I will not say we’re not going to win, but for sure the percentage of chances of victory will be much, much lower,” he said of the clash with Canada.
Lopez was called in as a late replacement to play singles against Edmund and lost 6-3 7-6.
But he played a full part in an incredible doubles clash alongside Nadal.
“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play another Davis Cup Finals, first of all, in Madrid, and playing today, the deciding point with Rafa to be in the final,” he said. “So I’m living a dream, to be honest.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)