The first national duels had been completed but there remained a relentless week of challenges and obstacles – a journey full of demands but one which promised to enhance the legend of those ultimately crowned the victors. Rafael Nadal was to make his first appearance of the Finals on the Tuesday and little did he know at that stage but the 2019 Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals would become one of the most memorable weeks of his career. A fourth Davis Cup title beckoned, but, as it happened, he would be required to win eight matches in just six days of competition.
Excitement swarmed around Caja Magica as Spain took to Centre Court for their Finals debut against Russia knowing there was little margin for error after also being drawn against defending champions Croatia in a difficult looking Group B.
In order to finish top of the group each tie almost represented a final in itself, something Nadal appeared aware of as he fought from the very beginning in a bid to make his dream of a fourth title a reality. Fifteen years had passed since the Mallorcan was crowned a Davis Cup champion for the first time in Seville, but the hunger to add to his haul remained undimmed and this came to the fore early in proceedings.
After Roberto Bautista had suffered defeat in the third set of the opening match to the impressive Andrey Rublev, Nadal was forced to step forward and fire Spain back into contention.
Nadal dispatched Karen Khachanov and with the score tied at 1-1 was ready to contest the doubles. Spain’s captain Sergi Bruguera, however, opted for Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez, who duly overpowered Rublev and Khachanov.
That decision allowed Nadal crucial time to rest and recover, which would prove significant as he was required to contest and win no fewer than eight matches in just six days of competition.
As well as his opening victory over Khachanov, the then-33-year-old also outmanoeuvred Borna Gojo of Croatia, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, Dan Evans of Great Britain and the dangerous Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the title-clinching clash.
He also featured in doubles matches against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic, Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer and Maximo Gonzalez and Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski during an epic semi-final.
Nadal was not alone in contesting eight matches, however. Rublev, Shapovalov and Khachanov did likewise, but he was the only player to return a 100 per cent record, while his leadership role within the Spanish group intensified as he supported Bautista following the untimely death of his father.
As he raised his arms aloft on the Sunday following victory over Shapovalov, which clinched a 2-0 victory for Spain over a dangerous Canada outfit, there was little doubt that Nadal had given everything to the cause.