Spain defeated Canada 2-0
Roberto Bautista Agut bt. Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(3) 6-3
Rafael Nadal bt. Denis Shapovalov 6-3 7-6(7)
There were dramatic matches, there were big upsets, there were passionate fans and there were late finishes. And then there was Rafael Nadal – and, ultimately, it was Nadal who proved to be the difference between Spain and the rest of the field at this year’s Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals.
Nadal anchored the Spanish team to a 2-0 victory over Canada in Sunday’s final, recording a 6-3 7-6(7) triumph over Denis Shapovalov after Roberto Bautista Agut had defeated Felix Auger-Aliasimme 7-6(3) 6-3 to set Spain on their way to the title. The results secured a sixth Davis Cup crown for Spain – their first since defeating Argentina in Seville in 2011.
"It's an amazing feeling and especially share this great moment with all the people that supported us during the whole week is just unforgettable, for all the fans," Nadal said later.
The world No. 1 won all five singles matches he contested this week – three of them against Top 20 opponents – as well as returning to court to help Spain win doubles matches en route to the final on three occasions.
But, this being tennis’ premier team competition, Nadal literally could not have won the title alone. He partnered both Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez to decisive doubles victories, with Lopez, Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta providing the supporting act in singles.
In fact, Sunday belonged to Bautista Agut every bit as much as it did to Nadal. The 31-year-old had to temporarily leave the team earlier in the week following the death of his father, and the rapturous reception he received on his return to court in the final was spine-tingling.
Bautista Agut took on Canadian No. 2 Auger-Aliassime, the talented 19-year-old who was playing his first match at the event having been sidelined with injury for much of the week. The first set was a tight affair, with both men holding their own service games until the tiebreak. It was the more-experienced world No. 9 who held his nerve in the breaker, winning five straight points from 2-3 down to take the set.
The first break of the match came early in the second set, and it was Bautista Agut who achieved it and moved into a 3-0 lead. Auger-Aliassime hit back, but the Spaniard broke again before serving out for an emotional win in one hour and 49 minutes.
"It was an amazing feeling on the court today," Bautista Agut said after his victory. "I was trying to do everything. I had the opportunity to play today because all the team and all the players and the rest of the team did an unbelievable effort since the first day."
Nadal and Shapovalov took to court shortly thereafter in what was – fans of obscure statistics, rejoice – the first singles match between two lefthanders in a Davis Cup final since 1982, when USA’s John McEnroe defeated France’s Henri Leconte in the dead fifth match of the tie. There was altogether more riding on this contest, however, and the noisy, 12,000-strong crowd, fully bedecked in red and yellow, was willing the 19-time Grand Slam champion to victory from the outset.
But world No. 15 Shapovalov has proved this year that he is no pushover, and it took a stunningly high level of play from Nadal to achieve a break of serve in the sixth game and successfully serve out for the first set three games later.
The pair matched each other game-for-game in the second set, with both holding firm on serve until the tiebreak. Nadal opened up a 6-4 lead to gain two championship points, but the Canadian saved them both, the first with a stunning forehand passing shot down the line. A set point then came and went for Shapovalov before a deep Nadal return forced Shapovalov into an error on the third championship point, and Nadal was engulfed by his teammates on the baseline.
"It's been an unforgettable week for all of us, without a doubt," Nadal said afterwards. "So super happy. Honestly, it's one of this weeks that we'll never forget."
In the meantime, it will be the Spanish team and fans who will be painting the town red (and yellow) tonight. This week has felt like a festival of noise and colour – but perhaps the party in Madrid is only just starting.
Source: Davis Cup
• Rafael Nadal vs. Denis Shapovalov
• Post-match interview
• Trophy ceremony
• Rafa receives the Rakuten Optimism Award
Photos: Getty Images; Davis Cup; AFP; EFE; AP
• Press conference