Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Nadal crushes Zverev as Spain make semi-finals

AFP, PARIS

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to Alexander Zverev of Germany in their Davis Cup quarter-final reverse singles rubber in Valencia, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Rafael Nadal on Sunday thrashed Alexander Zverev as Spain set up a Davis Cup semi-final against holders France with a dramatic fightback against Germany in Valencia.

The world No. 1’s 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in Valencia drew the tie level at 2-2, before veteran David Ferrer battled to a marathon 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber to finish the job.

Two breaks in each set were enough for Nadal to seal an impressively comfortable victory over world No. 4 Zverev in what was only the 31-year-old’s second outing since returning from a hip injury.

Nadal said after the match he is still regaining sharpness.

“The first set was fantastic,” Nadal said. “There were times when I lost a bit of control because the match was tough, I had not competed for a long time and to maintain the level of the first set was complicated for me, but in general it was a very important match and I am very happy.”

Nadal was forced to retire from his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic in January, but, back on his favored clay, the 16-time Grand Slam champion showed little sign of rust against Zverev, whom he has now beaten four times out of four.

It was also the 24th consecutive match Nadal has won in the Davis Cup.

Kohlschreiber twice fought back from a set down, but former French Open runner-up Ferrer broke in the 11th game of the decider and held his nerve on serve after almost five hours on court.

“It is an unforgettable day, a very special day,” Ferrer said. “I do not know how I have done it, I have tried to give it my all, this competition is the best that has happened to me in my life.”

Elsewhere, defending champions France booked a home semi-final against Spain as Lucas Pouille claimed a hard-fought win over Fabio Fognini in Genoa to give the visitors a 3-1 victory.

“I won without playing my best tennis, those are the best types of victories,” Pouille said after his first Davis Cup win over a top-20 player.

World No. 11 Pouille came from behind to see off Fognini 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 and send Yannick Noah’s France into the semis for the third time in four years.

“Eighteen months ago, he was playing for the first time, and now he is our leader on and off the court,” captain Noah said of Pouille.

Croatia are to host the US in the other semi-final in September after Cilic thrashed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in Varazdin.

“From the beginning till the end I played on a rather high level ... constant pressure, superior, aggressive,” former US Open champion Cilic said.

The US were the only team to progress without losing a rubber.

Last year’s losing finalists Belgium struggled without their top-ranked players David Goffin and Steve Darcis, leaving the US with a straightforward task to reach the semis for the first time since 2012.

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