Davis Cup: Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal shine to split opening rubbers

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Davis Cup: Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal shine to split opening rubbers

Playing against each other for the fifth time and already for the third in 2018, Alexander Zverev defeated David Ferrer 6-4 6-2 6-2 in an hour and 55 minutes to make a perfect start for his country against the toughest possible rivals on clay in Valencia. Sascha played in the final in Miami last Sunday and he had to overcome a jetlag and the fact he trained on clay only for three days, showing his good form once again and delivering the first loss for Ferrer in David Cup singles matches on clay (the Spaniard won the previous 16 he entered).

David made 10 double faults and this was one of his worst serving performances in a career, especially on clay, facing 15 break points and getting broken 10 times, eight in a row in sets two and three! The German lost his serve five times but that couldn't change anything on the scoreboard as he had the full control in the return games.

His backhand worked well and he had the upper hand in the rallies, moving well and creating an open space to hit more winners than the Spaniard. This was the fourth singles win for Zverev in Davis Cup and the third in a row in 2018 after beating Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios in the opening round in Brisbane in February.

They traded breaks in the opening games of the match after forehand errors and Zverev moved in front again in game five with a good backhand attack. The German served well by the end of the set and he missed two more break points in game seven that could give him the set even earlier.

Ferrer saved them to stay in touch but he was powerless on the return, allowing Zverev to close the set with a hold at 15 in game 10. David couldn't hold his serve from the start of the second set until the end of the match, which probably never happened to him before, and despite breaking Zverev's serve twice in each of those sets it wasn't enough to keep him in contention longer.

Sascha was in a full command in return games and he earned the win with a service winner in the 10th game of set number three to grab a very important win and move Germany in front. Like many times in the past, Rafael Nadal was there to save Spain, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2 6-2 6-3 in 2 hours and 33 minutes to level the overall score to 1-1 and claim his 18th win in as many Davis Cup singles matches on clay starting from 2004. In addition, this was Nadal's 23rd consecutive Davis Cup win when we count both the singles and doubles rubbers, leaving Owen Casey and Wayne Ferreira on 22.

Playing for the first time since January when he had to retire against Marin Cilic in Melbourne, Nadal looked a little bit rusty, which is normal after a long break but his victory was never in doubt, losing serve twice and creating 18 break chances to keep the pressure on Philipp all the time.

The German made too many errors with a small number of winners and he gave his serve away seven times to suffer the 15th loss to Nadal in 16 matches! Rafa saved a break point in the opening game and he broke Kohlschreiber at love a few minutes later with a forehand down the line winner.

Nonetheless, the German was back on the positive side of the scoreboard when Nadal hit a double fault to drop serve in game three but he couldn't stay in touch with a mighty rival for too long. Nadal fired another forehand winner to break again in game four and he had a chance to increase his lead in game six, created two more break chances.

Philipp saved them and he had a chance to make the set more dramatic with a break point in game seven. Nadal saved it with another forehand winner and he claimed the opening set with another break in game eight, moving 6-2 in front after 51 minutes.

Rafa served well in the second set, losing just four points, and he earned a break in game four after a poor forehand from Kohlschreiber. The sixth game turned into a real marathon, lasting more than 17 minutes and offering five break points to Nadal who failed to convert any of those and increase his advantage.

Still, he completed the set with a break at 15 in game eight, moving closer to the finish line and the first point for Spain. The final set also lasted more than 50 minutes and it kicked off with a double fault from Nadal, who got the break back in the very next game when Philipp netted a forehand.

Another forehand error cost the German his service game at 2-3 and he had to save a match point in game eight to prolong the encounter. Nadal won four points in a row in the ninth game to bring the match home, firing a service winner to write Davis Cup history. Spain vs Germany (Plaza de Toros de Valencia, Outdoor Clay) 1-1


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