Davis Cup Memory: Argentina at Spain, 2011
By all indications, it was a long year for Novak Djokovic. The Serb started 2011 on a 64-2 rampage, but closed it by losing four of his final 10 matches. I can say with certainty that it was a long year. It was my first full year as editor of this website, and a number of personal events—all good, I’m happy to say—made for an incredibly busy 365 days.
So when I was given an opportunity to attend the Davis Cup final between Argentina and host Spain in Seville, in early December, a normally reflex “Yes!” was superseded by cautious thought. OK, maybe for only a day or two. But I’m thankful to have embarked on a trans-Atlantic flight to Madrid, followed by a high-speed train due south toward Sevilla Santa Justa station.
Any inconvenience, stress, or fatigue I felt was washed away as I traversed the massive Estadio Olímpico about an hour before the first match began. I quickly spotted Juan Martin del Potro practicing on red clay, a surface I’d never seen pro tennis played on in person. The air was already crisp, with the stadium’s open-concept construction, and the fans already delirious. The Argentine fans, I should say, who despite being considerably outnumbered, managed to outdo the Spanish supporters in vocal intensity. The baby-blue-and-white partisans played a role in this three-day contest, but they would head to Seville’s tapas bars Friday night with an 0-2 deficit on their minds; Rafael Nadal slaughtered Juan Monaco in the first rubber, while David Ferrer staged a five-set comeback win over del Potro in downright chilly conditions.
But this tie would not end in three rubbers. How could it, after such inspired play by David Nalbandian and woeful hitting from Fernando Verdasco in Saturday’s doubles? And how could it, with Nadal—who endured a very long year of his own—slotted to play Sunday’s first singles match? The 2011 season would not end that easily for Rafa, whose sixth French Open triumph was overshadowed by his inability to beat Djokovic in their six final-round meetings. No, the world No. 2 would have to play one more time.
As it turned out, Nadal perhaps saved his best for last. But so did his opponent, del Potro, who shocked the over 20,000 in attendance by winning the first set, 6-1, and snagging an early break in the second, giving the red-and-yellow swaths of the crowd cause for concern. Nadal would answer, winning the second set without his peerless dirt play, but the outcome was still in question. That uncertainty, along with the drama unfolding on court, the explosive reactions off court, and a Game 6 atmosphere made for one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever attended.
In the end, it would be Spain’s day. Nadal made it so with a forehand winner in a fourth-set tiebreaker, just minutes after getting broken while serving for the Davis Cup. Rafa collapsed to the clay in celebration, having clinched the historic trophy for his country for the first time. A long year was finally coming to an end, and on a very positive note. Both for Nadal, and myself.
More Memories:Peter Bodo: USA at Ireland, 1983 World Group Playoff
Steve Tignor: Russia at USA, 2007 Final
Richard Pagliaro: Austria at USA, 2004 First Round
Ed McGrogan: Argentina at Spain, 2011 Final