Rafael Nadal led Spain to a 4-1 Davis Cup victory over France on Sunday and a final date with Argentina, but there were tears for US Open winner Novak Djokovic, whose injury-forced retirement saw champions Serbia slump 3-2 to the South Americans.
As Nadal brushed aside fatigue from his US Open final loss to Djokovic to win two of his side’s semi-final rubbers, the tearful Serb collapsed on the court in agony in Belgrade with back pain less than a week after his Flushing Meadows triumph.
Nadal slayed France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 in Cordoba to secure the winning point after the world No. 2 had thrashed Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 in Friday’s opening rubber.
“It’s really unbelievable, the feelings are very, very emotional here today,” said Nadal, who has a 18-1 win-loss record in the Davis Cup and will compete in his sixth final. “Today, I felt good physically. Friday [against Gasquet] I wasn’t quite there yet, but because it wasn’t a long match I could recharge my batteries for today.”
Fernando Verdasco completed the rout for the hosts when he beat Gasquet 6-2, 6-1 in the final dead rubber.
In Belgrade, Djokovic admitted he had been carrying a back injury from the US Open as he retired while trailing 7-6 (7/5), 3-0 in the day’s first reverse singles to Juan Martin del Potro.
Djokovic, who missed the opening day, replaced Viktor Troicki as captain Bogdan Obradovic tried to get the champions back into a tie in which they trailed 2-1.
“Of course, I am very disappointed that the match ended this way,” the world No. 1 said.
“I tried, but it did not work. I was not even 60 percent ready, but we have accepted that risk, although we knew that my injury could worsen,” added Djokovic, who had needed treatment on his back during his US Open final win.
It was only the third defeat in 67 matches this season for the Serb — two of them because of retirements.
Argentina will travel to Spain for the Dec. 2 to Dec. 4 final as they bid to win their first Davis Cup trophy after finishing runners-up in 1981, 2006 and 2008.
Spain, who are looking unbeatable on clay, are bidding for their fifth title after 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2009.
In World Group playoff ties, Switzerland will return to the elite group next year after Stanislas Wawrinka sealed a 3-2 victory over Australia yesterday by wrapping up a five-set defeat of Lleyton Hewitt.
The pair were level at two sets each with Wawrinka leading 5-3 in the decider when the match referee decided it was too dark to continue late on Sunday on the grass courts of the Royal Sydney Golf Club.
The pair resumed yesterday with the Swiss breaking Hewitt in the first game back to close out the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 6-4, 6-3, putting the visitors in the 16-team World Group next year.
For Australia, it means another year in the Davis Cup doldrums, forced to battle it out in zonal qualifiers for a chance to enter the elite competition again.
Hewitt came to the court yesterday with a heavily strapped right knee and was cheered by a small group of spectators who had turned up for the unexpected extra day.
He raced to a 30-0 lead, but appeared to be struggling on court, with two double-faults and two unforced errors ultimately costing him the game.
On Sunday, the Czech Republic completed a 5-0 whitewash of Romania to advance along with Japan. Russia, Austria, Italy, Croatia and Canada also booked their berths.
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