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Germany Takes 2-1 Lead Over Spain in Davis Cup Tennis, Now The Pressure Falls On Rafa Nadal

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns a ball to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber during their match of the Davis Cup playoffs between Spain and Germany at the Bullring in Valencia, Spain, 06 April 2018. EPA-EFE/KAI FOERSTERLING

 

 

Germany takes 2-1 lead over Spain in Davis Cup, pressure falls on Nadal

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Germany earned a humongous doubles victory at Spain, taking a 2-1 lead in their Davis Cup quarterfinal tie on the red clay of Valencia on Saturday afternoon. Jan-Lennard Struff and Tim Puetz started hot, withstood a Spanish charge, survived a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(4), 7-5 thriller against Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez after four hours and 40 minutes of scintillating action in the bull ring.

 

Struff and Puetz saved five break points to remain on serve in the final set before earning a critical break of Marc Lopez at 5-5.

 

“That was a very tough match,” Struff assured. “We were always trying to motivate each other. “We had to push each other and try to play more calm in the fifth set. I’m just so happy we managed to get the win today. It’s one of the greatest matches of my career, for sure.”

 

“That is what Davis Cup is all about,” German captain Michael Kohlmann commented. “In doubles it is very tough to change back momentum so we had to go back to basics (after the third and fourth sets), as Marc Lopez in particular was playing unbelievable tennis. It was 50-50 in the end; we got a bit lucky, but it feels great.”

 

And it means Rafael Nadal and the Spaniards may be feeling some pressure on Sunday.

 

Spain Davis Cup team number one Rafael Nadal (L) and Germany Davis Cup number one Alexander Zverev pose after the Davis Cup draw ceremony for the Davis Cup world group playoffs between Spain and Germany, in Valencia, eastern Spain, 05 April 2018. The playoffs between Spain and Germany will take place from 06 to 08 April at the bull ring of Valencia. EPA-EFE/MANUEL BRUQUE

Nadal will be facing a must-win situation when he faces Zverev in the fourth rubber. The world No. 1 did his part on Friday by making routine 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 work of Philipp Kohlschreiber in his first match since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open.

 

A meeting with Alexander Zverev awaits Nadal on Sunday. The world No. 4 is coming off a runner-up performance in Miami and he crushed David Ferrer in Friday’s first singles match. Zverev, just 20 years old, trails the head-to-head series with Nadal 3-0. He was competitive in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 setback at the 2017 Aussie Open but got double-breadsticked 6-1, 6-1 in their only previous clay-court encounter last spring in Monte-Carlo.

 

If Nadal wins, as expected, the scheduled fifth rubber between Ferrer and Kohlschreiber would decide the tie. At a combined 70 years old (Ferrer is 36; Kohlschreiber is 34), the two veterans would be turning back the clock for their 14th career showdown. Ferrer leads the head-to-head series 10-3, including 7-0 in their last seven overall, 3-1 on clay, and 1-0 in Davis Cup (2008 quarterfinal rubber in Germany on a hard court). They have not squared off since 2015, when the Spaniard prevailed 6-3, 7-6(5) in Barcelona.

 

Ferrer’s 2018 record fell to 6-8 with his loss to Zverev, but he has not fallen to anyone ranked worse than No. 49 in the world. Kohlschreiber has been similarly mediocre this season, with a 5-7 mark that includes opening-match losses at three tournaments.

 

In Genova, Italy, meanwhile, the host national plunged into a 2-1 deficit. The Italians lost in much different fashion than Spain did in doubles, as France’s Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert clobbered Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

 

“When you play at 1-1 in Davis Cup, the doubles point is crucial,” Mahut explained. “Fognini played unbelievable yesterday and I think at 2-2 (if Fabio Fognini beats Lucas Pouille) they still can have Andreas (Seppi) and Paolo (Lorenzi)–great, great competitors. It was crucial to win today, but there’s still a long way to go.

 

“We know each other so well,” Mahut said of his partnership with Herbert. “We’re playing (together) for so many years now. When it’s really difficult, I know he has my back and he knows I have his back. We were here today for the team; it’s 2-1 and we’re so proud of it.”

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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