Friday's ATP Cup quarterfinal between Spain and Belgium came down to the wire in Sydney. After taking a surprise singles loss to David Goffin, Rafael Nadal got right back swinging, in doubles—and with Pablo Carreno Busta, prevailed in a dramatic and tense supertiebreaker, 6-7 (7), 7-5, 10-7. The win over Sander Gille and Joran Viegen sends Spain to the semifinals, and leaves Belgium wondering what more they possibly could have done.
The win send Spain to an ATP Cup semifinal tie against Australia—which also won their quarterfinal in a doubles super-tiebreaker—on Saturday night, Sydney time.
In the first singles match, Roberto Bautista Agut gave Spain the early lead with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Belgium's Kimmer Coopejans. Bautista Agut quickly captured the first set by stepping into the court and putting pressure on Coopejans to come up with bigger and better shots. Coopejans changed his style of play in the second set by approaching the net more and taking time away from the Bautista Agut, but was unable to make it last.
“I like to play with my teammates. It's great to play with your country," said Bautisa Agut. "Every match you play with your country, the crowd is special. The crowd is in the match, and it's very nice to play these kind of matches."
What happened next was anything but expected. Goffin, who last defeated Nadal in 2017 on an indoor hard court, was the clear underdog. But while Nadal entered this match relatively fresh, the humidity took a toll.
Goffin and Nadal traded breaks throughout the first set, but Goffin pulled ahead at the end to close it out, 6-4. Goffin carried the momentum into the second set, launching a crosscourt forehand winner to break Nadal in his opening service game.
Down 4-2, the 19-time Grand Slam champion saved two break points to hold a crucial service game. He would then tie things up at 4-4, eventually leading to a tiebreak. But after two hours and 23 minutes, it was Goffin, rather than the hard-charging Spaniard, who would finish ahead, shocking the Sydney crowd with a match-sealing ace.
“I knew against Rafa I had to take the ball early and take more risk," said Goffin. "I was in the court trying to dictate and he had to find a solution. I knew I had to stick to that line and move forward and that's what I did.”
The 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory forced a doubles-decider, but it would turn out to be Belgium's high point on a rollercoaster day of competition.