Rafael Nadal beat Denis Shapovalov to claim his eighth match win at the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals and secure Spain’s sixth Davis Cup title
Spain have been crowned Davis Cup world champions for a sixth time after beating first-time finalists Canada 2-0 in front of a packed Caja Magica crowd in Madrid.
World No.1 Rafael Nadal ended the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals unbeaten in both singles and doubles, claiming a magnificent eighth victory over Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6(7) to seal the title after Roberto Bautista Agut had put the Spaniards in charge with an emotional 7-6(3), 6-3 win over Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Spain have now won the Davis Cup in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2019, winning this sixth title in their 10th final, an affair that swung from tense to pulsating over the course of four spellbinding sets.
All five members of the Spanish squad – Nadal, Bautista Agut, Feliciano Lopez, Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers – played their part in Spain’s success in Madrid, not least Bautista Agut, who left and returned to the side following the passing of his father earlier this week.
“It’s been an amazing week,” said Nadal who ended his Davis Cup Finals campaign with five singles wins and three in doubles, unbeaten, and unbroken on serve all week. “A lot of things we’ve been through – the father of Roberto passed away, Marcel yesterday stayed stiff in his low back and couldn’t move, Pablo got injured in singles.
“I could not be happier. An unforgettable moment here in this amazing stadium. The crowd was just a joke – we can’t thank enough all of them. And our team spirit prevails.”
For Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, there was to be no repeat of their 2015 Junior Davis Cup triumph at Caja Magica, and no final flourish for Vasek Pospisil, Canada’s resurgent Davis Cup stalwart who has been outstanding at the end of a season that began with back surgery, but captain Frank Dancevic’s side met their match in a final played in front of fervent Spanish support in the nation’s capital.
"I could not be happier - an unforgettable moment here in this amazing stadium, and our team spirit prevails" – Rafael Nadal
With Pospisil struggling with a sore shoulder after his week’s work in Madrid and Auger-Aliassime having recovered from his ankle injury, Dancevic handed the 19-year-old his first match of these Finals, and just the third Davis Cup singles contest of his career. But he found himself unable to make an impression against a pitch-perfect performance from Bautista Agut that put Spain in charge.
"First of all, what I've lived today I would't change it for anything." said the world No.9, whose speech to the crowd after the one-hour, 49-minute victory reduced some members of the Spanish team to tears. "Everything I felt on the court, all the support, the truth is.. It's incredible. The only thing that you can do here as a player is to step into the court and give everything and fight on the court. Today I could play thanks to the determination and support of my team over the week."
The first set of the 2019 final was a highwire act with neither player giving an inch on serve – eight of the 12 games were held to love, five for the Spaniard, three of the Canadian. In the tie-break it was Auger-Aliassime who flinched, caught on his heels by a bullet return at his feet and bunting a backhand wide to give up the vital mini-break.
The world No.9 had the chance to move 4-0 in front in the second set but Auger-Aliassime came to life and briefly got himself back on serve at 2-3.
It was a brief reprieve. Bautista Agut broke to love in the next game and with that the match was only ever headed one way, the Spaniard serving out to love to put the Spaniards in charge.
"What I've lived today I wouldn't change it for anything - today I could play thanks to the determination and support of my team" – Roberto Bautista Agut
Nadal stepped on to Caja Mágica’s Centre Court with a solitary Davis Cup singles defeat to his name, but with the knowledge that Denis Shapovalov had beaten him on a hard court in the past. With both players exploring the outer reaches of the court surrounds with deep rally positions and angled drives, the world No.1 grabbed the critical break in game 6 to clinch the first set.
But Shapovalov was not going down without a fight, saving two break points in the third game of the second set and taking the game to Nadal to force the 52nd tiebreak of the week in Madrid. The 20-year-old briefly held a 3-0 lead but Nadal turned it around to reach match point at 6-4, only for Shapovalov to smoke a forehand winner when Nadal looked to bury a short ball. The Canadian even reached break point, saved with a service winner, and from there Nadal could not be stopped, falling to the court before saving a special embrace for Bautista Agut during the celebrations.
“Rafa, he’s out of this world – I don’t know if he’s an alien or what!” joked Spain captain Sergi Bruguera. “We’ve been through this week, not one day we went to sleep before 3am, and one day when he didn’t get to sleep until 5:10am and he was playing singles and doubles again the next day. What can you say?
“Unbelievable. And can you imagine Roberto yesterday was at the funeral of his father and now here giving everything – the mentality, the concentration, the spirit, everything for the team. I have no idea how to describe this in words. There are so many feelings, so many emotions you’ve never felt, and it’s difficult to explain them. The crowd was incredible all week and they drove us to the final.”