Rafael Nadal needed only 3 sets against Alexander Zverev as Spain set up a Davis Cup semi-final against holders France with a dramatic fightback against Germany in Valencia on Sunday.
The world number one’s 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in Valencia drew the tie level at 2-2, before veteran David Ferrer battled to a marathon 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber to finish the job.
Two breaks in each set were enough for Nadal to seal an impressively comfortable victory over world number four Zverev in what was only the 31-year-old’s second outing since returning from a hip injury.
Nadal said after the match he is still regaining sharpness.
“The first set was fantastic,” Nadal said. “There were times when I lost a bit of control because the match was tough, I had not competed for a long time and to maintain the level of the first set was complicated for me.
“But in general it was a very important match and I am very happy.”
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Nadal was forced to retire from his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic in January but, back on his favored clay, the 16-time Grand Slam champion showed little sign of rust against Zverev, whom he has now beaten four times out of four.
It was also the 24th consecutive match Nadal has won in the Davis Cup.
Ferrer needed nearly five hours to defeat Kohlschreiber 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5 at the packed bull ring in Valencia, guaranteeing Spain’s return to the semifinals for the first time since 2012. Spain will now face France, which defeated Italy 3-1.
Nadal and the local crowd erupted in celebration when the 33rd-ranked Ferrer successfully served for the match after breaking Kohlschreiber’s serve in the previous game. Kohlschreiber, No. 34 in the world, ended with 114 unforced errors.
“I want to enjoy this moment,” said Ferrer, a Valencia resident. “For me it’s one of the best days of my life and I want to enjoy it this week.”
Spain extended its winning streak at home to 27 ties. Italy holds the Davis Cup record with a 29-tie unbeaten run at home from 1949-64. Spain hasn’t lost a tie as host since the first round in 1999 against Brazil.