Tennis

Nadal leads Spain into final

2011-09-18 16:17
Rafael Nadal (File)

Cordoba - Rafael Nadal put Spain into the Davis Cup final after demolishing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 for an insurmountable 3-1 lead against France in their semifinal series.

Nadal complained of fatigue coming into the series but showed no symptoms against the 10th-ranked Frenchman on the outdoor clay at Cordoba's bullring to give the hosts a chance at a third title in four years.

Tsonga replaced Gilles Simon for the reverse singles match after an impressive doubles victory but was frustrated by 50 unforced errors, especially a misfiring backhand as France won just 16 games over three singles matches.

Spain will either host Argentina in the Dec. 2-4 final. Argentina defeated Serbia on Sunday.

Tsonga's erratic play against a player who has won 32 titles on clay left little doubt over the result as Nadal served out the victory in 2 hours, 17 minutes when Tsonga shot wide.

Nadal, who never faced a break point, is now 14-0 on clay and 18-1 in Davis Cup singles play, the six-time French Open champion's lone defeat coming on his debut in 2004. Nadal was a member of three of Spain's four title-winning teams and leads it into its sixth final since 2000 and eighth overall.

Nadal has complained about the overcrowded tennis calendar sapping his stamina as he raced from his US Open final defeat to Novak Djokovic in New York on Monday to rout Richard Gasquet on Friday. But on Sunday, Nadal was energised and playing all of Tsonga's shots except for the many that landed out as he scored nearly twice as many points as his opponent, while hitting just eight unforced errors.

Tsonga started with an ace but Nadal closed that first game with the first of six break points to ignite the boisterous crowd, which launched into chants of "Torero" (Bullfighter) throughout the afternoon at the Los Califas bullring that is normally filled by bullfighting aficionados.

Nadal clinched three break points in the first set after Tsonga sent a backhand into the net, double-faulted and finally sent a backhand wide.

Tsonga switched to serve-and-volley with some success as both players held serve to start the second set until Tsonga hit a forehand long while facing a triple-break point in the fifth game. Nadal was ahead and broke again in the seventh game when his opponent sent another backhand wide.

Nadal closed out the set by hitting a forehand down the line for one of 21 winners on the afternoon, when the temperature dropped slightly from previous days to 30 degrees Celsius (86 F).

Tsonga managed to hold until the seventh game of the final set when he raced forward to smash into the net to give Nadal a double-break opportunity. The second-ranked Spaniard converted his final break when the Frenchman volleyed his backhand wide.

In a meaningless fifth singles match, David Ferrer was scheduled to play Richard Gasquet.

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