Spain and Rafael Nadal ‘back to where we have to be’ in Davis Cup World Group

Two years after Spain’s stunning fall from grace in the Davis Cup, Rafael Nadal has hailed his nation’s return to the World Group after victory in the playoff against India.
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after partnering Marc Lopez to doubles victory against India. Rajat Gupta / EPA
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after partnering Marc Lopez to doubles victory against India. Rajat Gupta / EPA

Two years after Spain’s stunning fall from grace in the Davis Cup, Rafael Nadal has hailed his nation’s return to the World Group after victory in the playoff against India.

Nadal, 30, combined with Feliciano Lopez in the doubles to overhaul Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni in four sets and complete a 3-0 victory in New Delhi on Saturday, ending Spain’s exile after an acrimonious period.

“For us, it was very important after two years being away from the World Group,” Nadal said.

“It’s important for us to come back to where we think we have to be.”

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The tournament’s dominant power of the modern era, Spain won five titles from 2000-11 before decline set in following their narrow defeat in the 2012 final to Czech Republic.

With Nadal battling injury and his top teammates’ commitment wavering, Spain were turfed out of the World Group in 2014 after being upset by lowly Brazil in a playoff, sparking then-captain Carlos Moya’s resignation.

Moya’s replacement Gala Leon was sacked within a year after a players’ revolt and Spanish tennis was further embarrassed as the team crashed out to an understrength Russia in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I last year under new captain Conchita Martinez.

Former Wimbledon champion Martinez, who also captains the women’s Fed Cup team, has been at pains to repair relations with her players and managed to take a strong team to India to get the job done.

Former Davis Cup power Australia also has ambitions of returning to its glory days and will keep their place in the World Group after defeating Slovakia 3-0 in Sydney.

Led by talented but tempestuous Nick Kyrgios, the 28-time champions have a player to build a team around and captain Lleyton Hewitt said he expected big things in 2017.

“We expect that we can go deep,” Hewitt said.

“It’s been quite a while now since we’ve had an opportunity to play in a final and I know from experience I’d love these boys to have that experience of going out there and playing for Australia.”

Belgium, Canada and Japan also booked their places in the World Group next year.

Champions England, trailing 2-1, continue their Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina later on Sunday, with Croatia aiming to wrap up the other semi-final against France.

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Published: September 18, 2016 04:00 AM

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